THE WHITE HOUSE
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Kirk Cullough McGarvey had nearly lost his life three months ago in Moscow. Although the pain he felt from his wounds had already begun to fade, the scars, both physical and mental, would never go away. This time his daughter, Elizabeth, had almost been killed, and he blamed himself.
He pulled up at the CIA main gate in his leased Nissan Pathfinder a few minutes before 8:00 A.M. Friday. It was a beautiful summer morning with a perfectly blue sky and almost no haze. Everything that had to be said after the operation--the summaries, the debriefings, the contact sheets and budget lines and weapons reports--had been gone over in endless detail with the headhunters in Internal Security. Yet he was answering the summons again, as he had been doing for twenty-five years.
"The general would like to see you tomorrow morning, eight sharp." Tommy Doyle, deputy director of Intelligence, had phoned last night. He supposed that the DCI wanted to have a final word, as he himself did. In fact he had a lot tosay, most of which Roland Murphy was not going to like.
He gave his driver's license to the uniformed security guard, who checked his name from a list then handed the license back. "Visitor's parking lot is on the left, sir."
"Thanks," McGarvey said. Coming back from Moscow he'd been angry because of the way the Company had bungled everything, and had involved his daughter against all rules of ethics and decency. But that had faded. Most of the people responsible were gone.
The grounds were lush and August green, the trees in full foliage as they'd been the first time he'd come here as a young case officer from the Agency's training facility near Williamsburg, Virginia. He'd been full of ambition, a real sense of purpose, "gung ho," as his instructors described him, but with some inner demons that drove him to excel beyond the level of any trainee before or since. Now it was very nearly over. After a quarter-century of service to his country, good times and bad, he was getting out.
He had to show his license again to the guard at the visitor's lot, where he found an empty parking space, then walked up to the main building. Bad times, he thought. He'd had plenty of them. The men he'd killed in the line of duty weren't a legion, but there were a lot of them. He remembered each of their faces, the look in their eyes when they died. Anger, rage, disappointment, surprise. They were flesh-and-blood human beings with dreams and ambitions like anyone else, their lives ended suddenly by an assassin's bullet. Bad men, Phil Carrara would have said, but men nonetheless. Not fair, they'd wanted to say at the end. And he had empathy for them, the killer for his victims. It was a special bond like no other. He agreed, it had never been fair.
Nearing fifty, McGarvey was tall, with the physique of a rugby player and the coordination of a ballet dancer. He had thick brown hair, gray at the temples, and a wide, honest face that many women found handsome. His eyes were deep, sometimes green, other times gray and almost always filled with emotion, an attitude that he knew something, had seen things that most people couldn't know, let alone understand. His friend Jacqueline said he had Dr. Zhivago eyes from the movie staring Omar Sharif. He ran and swam everyday, rain or shine,unless he was in the middle of an operation, fenced when he could find a worthy opponent and honed his skills with firearms on any firing range or gun club that would have him.
But it was never enough. He never felt as if he were completely ready. He always doubted his competence, always pushed himself to the limit.
It was over, he told himself again, passing through the automatic doors into the main reception hall. And after this morning's meeting he was going to try to convince Liz to get out while she still could. One spook in the family was enough. He didn't want his daughter following in his footsteps, despite the fact she was very good, very dedicated and, according to what he was hearing, the best student at the Farm, maybe even better than he was.
Tommy Doyle, the tall, thin, dapper-dressing deputy director of Intelligence, was waiting for him at the security checkpoint in the lobby with a visitor's pass.
"Thanks for coming out this morning," he said. "The general asked me to bring you directly upstairs, the others should already be in his office." He seemed harried, but McGarvey had seen the look before.
"Yeah," Doyle said, handing McGarvey the pass. "We have a situation brewing in the Sea of Japan." Doyle was one of the old school, the "Club," and along with the late Phil Carrara, who'd been deputy director of Operations, Larry Danielle, the deputy director of Central Intelligence and General Murphy, he had been responsible for bringing the CIA back from near emasculation after the Carter administration.
"I'm out, Tommy. That's what I came to tell him this morning. It's the only reason I'm here."
Doyle's lips compressed. "Maybe that's not possible right now."
"It's the way it's going to be."
Doyle faced him. "Ryan is gone and the situation in Moscow has stabilized for the moment, if that's what's worrying you. All we're asking is that you listen to us, for Christ's sake. You can give us that much."
McGarvey glanced over at the inscription on the marble wall. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall makeyou free." John VIII: 32. In twenty-five years he'd heard so many lies that he sometimes doubted if anyone here had ever read the biblical quote.
He put the security pass on a chain around his neck, nodded tightly and fell in beside Doyle back to the elevators.
Santiago, Berlin, Lausanne, Lisbon, Paris, Tokyo and three months ago, Moscow. His past came crushing down on him like a load of bricks as he rode up to the seventh floor. Each incident had been started by a man or men with the frightened, uncertain, desperate look that he was seeing now in Doyle's eyes. A "situation" they called such things. Already McGarvey could smell the stench of death.
It was exactly 8:00 A.M. when they entered the large, well-appointed office of Roland Murphy, director of Central Intelligence. The general was seated at his desk watching CNN and drinking a cup of coffee. He was a large man with thick arms, a broad, square face and deep-set eyes beneath bushy eyebrows that were patient rather than cynical, as one might expect. He'd survived four presidents as DCI and was considered one of the toughest, most competent men ever to sit at this desk. He was apolitical, and no president was willing to replace him for fear of what his loss would mean to the CIA.
Seated across from him was Carleton Paterson, the patrician former New York lawyer who was the agency's new general counsel.
Murphy muted the sound on the television. He motioned toward an empty chair. "Thanks for coming out here this morning."
Lawrence Danielle, aging, stoop-shouldered, his jowls looser, his hair thinner and whiter than the last time McGarvey had seen him more than two years ago, came from his office adjoining the DCI's and laid a bundle of files on the desk. "Good Morning, Kirk. How are you feeling, wounds healing and all that?"
"Good morning, Larry," McGarvey said. "I'll live."
"I should hope so," Danielle said brightly. Unlike the others he still seemed to have his sense of humor. But then he'd been around even longer than Murphy. He was deputy director.
When they were all seated, Murphy called his secretary andtold her to hold everything until he advised her differently. "Coffee?" he asked McGarvey.
Murphy studied him for several seconds. "I've never believed that assassination solved anything. But I was wrong this time, and you were right. If you hadn't killed Tarankov, Russia would have become the same threat to the world that Hitler's Germany was."
"It remains to be seen." McGarvey shrugged. Now that he was here he decided that he had no final words after all. It no longer seemed to matter. Seeing the worried looks on their faces had dissipated his anger. "I'm here, what do you want?"
"We need your help."
"I won't accept another assignment, General."
"I'm told the DGSE wants Ms. Belleau to return to Paris," Doyle said. "Will you go back to France with her?" Jacqueline Belleau worked for the French secret service. She was in love with McGarvey, and after the Moscow operation she had come to Washington with him.
"I don't know," McGarvey said.
"I'm not offering you an assignment," Murphy said. "I'm offering you a job."
"Deputy director of Operations."
McGarvey had to laugh. "You have to be kidding."
"You're the perfect man for the job, Kirk," Danielle said reasonably. "No one has your operational experience. And you say that you won't take another field assignment."
"I'm out," McGarvey said. "And even if I wanted the job, which I don't, my appointment would never make it through the Senate. I was a shooter. No one in their right mind would even consider me." McGarvey looked at them. "I'm an anachronism, remember?"
"You have too much valuable experience to waste teaching Voltaire to a bunch of kids who couldn't care less," Murphy said.
McGarvey looked out the bullet-proof windows behind the general's desk. Outside was freedom from knowing the frightening secret of just how fragile the world really was. In here they waged a constant battle that never seemed to end. And itwas up to the deputy director of Operations to see that the war was fought efficiently in a way that seemed to make the most sense. With the most honor.
That had never seemed clearer than during the Rick Ames affair. Fifteen or twenty good people had been killed because no one inside this building, the deputy director of Operations included, had bothered to ask the most obvious question: How could Ames afford an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar house, and thirty thousand a month in credit card bills on a salary of fifty or sixty thousand?
Ames had sold out to the Russians, and every agent he'd identified had been murdered. Blood had been shed. A river of blood because of bullshit, timidity and indifference. And still the battle raged on.
He studied the general's eyes. Everything was different now. Less clear than it had been during the Cold War when we knew who our enemy was. We'd been the good guys and the Russians bad. But times had changed. Now just about everyone was a potential enemy. No place was truly safe; not New York City, not Oklahoma City, not Waco.
So who was left to fight the battles, McGarvey asked himself. The incompetents? If that were the case then we'd already lost.
"Good," Murphy said, and he seemed genuinely relieved, as did the others.
Paterson took a form from a file folder. "Before we get started we'd like you to sign this. Outlines your responsibilities to the information you'll be given this morning. Most of it is classified top secret or above."
McGarvey signed the document without reading it and handed it back. A brief look of annoyance crossed the general counsel's face.
"What's going on in the Sea of Japan that has you worried enough to offer me Ryan's old job? If it's Japan, you have a lot of good people in this building who know more about them than I do."
"Your name was put up two months ago," Danielle said. "But the decision was to give you five or six months to catch your breath after Moscow." Danielle shrugged apologetically.
"There was an underground nuclear explosion in North Korea twelve hours ago," Murphy said. "It was at one of their abandoned nuclear power stations on a deserted section of their east coast. A place called Kimch'aek."
"Was it a test, like India's and Pakistan's?"
"That's how it's going to play when the story breaks later today. The White House is going to stonewall it, at least for the time being, because frankly nobody knows what the hell to do. At the very least calling it an underground test is going to put a lot of pressure on Kim Jong-Il."
"The Japanese are already screaming for help," Doyle said. His mood was brittle. "They want us to move the Seventh Fleet into the Sea of Japan as a show of force."
McGarvey watched the interplay between them. "If it wasn't a test, what was it?"
"The North Koreans were using the place to stockpile what we believe were five working bombs. Three days ago they started moving something out of there in a big hurry, and then this happened." The general looked tired. "There were North Korean soldiers there, and civilian technicians, when the blast occurred. Maybe as many as two hundred of them."
The general shook his head. "The skipper of one of our Seawolf submarines on patrol in the area spotted a Japanese MSDF submarine about five miles off the coast, possibily communicating with someone in the power station. Could be they sent a team ashore to verify what the North Koreans were storing there."
"Either that or it was a kamikaze team," Doyle said.
"If it had been a test, Pyongyang would have made a statement by now," Danielle put in glumly. "It's not something Kim Jong-Il would sit on."
"The Seawolf radioed back that the Japanese submarine was damaged in the blast and sent up an emergency beacon. The Japanese are sending rescue units."
"Which the North Koreans will try to block," McGarvey said. He thought that he'd lost his capacity for surprise. But he wasn't so sure now.
"It gets worse," Murphy said. He looked as if he hadn't slept in a week. "Within two hours of the explosion, a pair ofChinese Han class nuclear submarines were spotted leaving the inlet at Qingdao and heading into the Yellow Sea."
"Not much of a threat. They're rust buckets."
"It's more of a political statement, I should think," Danielle said.
"Are we going to send the Seventh Fleet out there?"
"The President is considering it," Murphy said after a brief hesitation. "But for the moment the bulk of the fleet is still at Yokosuka. If we send them into the Sea of Japan, Kim Jong-Il will take it as a direct threat."
"So what?" McGarvey asked. "He won't attack us or Japan, he's not that stupid. And sending the Seventh would be a clear message: Back off. Even the Chinese would stand down just like they did a few years ago when Taiwan held its elections. Nobody is going to start a shooting war over there. And North Korea has lost its nuclear weapons."
"The explosion had an estimated yield of twenty kilotons," Doyle said. "One bomb. We think they had five, four of which they'd managed to move out of there."
"I don't buy it, General," McGarvey said. "They're not going to start a war they couldn't win."
"Unless they're nudged," Doyle said. He took a couple of photographs from a folder and handed them to McGarvey. "Do you recognize either of these men?"
Both pictures were of the same two old men seated across from each other in what appeared to be a Japanese teahouse garden. They were dressed in expensive-looking business suits. In one photograph a geisha girl was serving them something, and in the second picture she was gone.
McGarvey looked up. "Should I know them?"
"The man on the left is Hiroshi Kabayashi, who controls the Bank of Kobe. The other man is Shin Hironaka, the former director general of defense. They were part of the group that, along with Sokichi Kamiya, nearly brought down the government two years ago, and damned near got us in an all-out shooting war with Japan."
"I thought they were in jail."
"These pictures were taken ten days ago in Nagasaki," Doyle said. "About thirty miles south of the Japanese navybase at Sasebo where we think the disabled submarine came from."
McGarvey studied the photographs, a flood of memories coming back to him. The old men looked happy, even confident. Conspirators again, or just two old friends having tea?
"They call themselves superpatriots," Doyle said. "Unfortunately that's about all we've found out about them so far."
"Who's running operations these days?"
"Dick Adkins," Murphy said. "He's a good man, but he doesn't have your operational experience. Something he himself admits. Dick recommended that you be offered the job, and I agreed with him. We all did."
McGarvey handed the photographs back to Doyle.
"Well?" Murphy asked.
"Convince the President to get Seventh Fleet out of Tokyo Bay, then have Tokyo station find these guys, kidnap them if need be, and find out what's going on. But don't screw around. It looks as if you don't have much time."
"I meant the job offer."
"I'll think about it," McGarvey said.
"Goddammit," Doyle said.
"I said I'll think about it, Tommy."
Murphy nodded after a moment. "Very well. But as you say, we don't have much time, so don't take too long."
"I won't," McGarvey said.
Doyle got to his feet. "I'll take you downstairs."
Murphy stopped McGarvey at the door. "The DO is in shambles, Kirk. It's gotten beyond Dick's control. We need someone like you to put it back together." The general ran a hand across his eyes. "It was Ryan."
There were a dozen things McGarvey could have said, but he held his reply in check. Howard Ryan had hurt a lot of good people because of Murphy's blind devotion to expediency. The former DDO had been a wizard on the Hill. The CIA had been run into the ground under his leadership, but relations with Congress had risen to an all-time high.
The Farm Williamsburg, Virginia
Elizabeth McGarvey crossed the creek fifty yards behind the operational exercise area and, keeping a narrow strip of woods between her and the edge of the confidence course, raced to the rear of a complex of concrete bunkers. She held up against the bole of a large tree to catch her breath and tuck her medium blond hair in her fatigue cap. The noon sun was behind her so that anyone looking her way would be partially blinded.
She was a pretty woman of twenty-three with intelligent green eyes, an oval face with high, round cheekbones and a slender figure hidden by a black jumpsuit. She exuded self-confidence. Her mother, who came from old West Virginia money, and her father, who had been a field officer with the Central Intelligence Agency before she was born, were divorced. Because of the separation, her parents had overcompensated with love and permissiveness so that she was spoiled. She was used to making decisions for herself.
By now the instructors would be wondering where she had gotten herself to. The object of this exercise was for her to approach the bunkers, take out the two guards, get inside, kill the commandant, steal his briefcase and get back out to the ops center in the safe zone.
But it was a trap. They knew which direction she was supposed to be coming from. She'd found that out last night by breaking into the operation officer's computer.
Stepping out from behind the tree, she ran the last twenty-five yards down a gently sloping grassy field to the featureless back wall of the west building.
In the distance she could hear the rattle of small arms fire on the range and the crump of an explosion, then another. She loved this, every minute of it. Her mother warned that if she wanted to attract a man she would have to exchange her war paint for makeup. But unless she found a man like her father, she didn't care.
At the end of the bunker she took a quick look around the corner. Two guards were hunched down behind a sandbagbarrier. Impossible to take both of them out before an alarm was sounded.
Change the rules. She'd read her father's record; he'd never played by any rules except his own. It was one of the reasons he'd survived in the field for so long.
She laid her head against the rough wall for a few moments, going over everything she'd learned from the CIA field officer trainers for the past three months since Moscow. A wicked smile finally curled her lips. When all else failed, try the unexpected. She could almost hear her father saying something like that.
Checking her paintball pistol to make sure that it was ready to fire, she stuffed it in the web belt at the small of her back, then unzippered the top of her jumpsuit and pulled it down around her waist, making sure that she could still reach her gun.
She pulled off her sports bra, stuffed it in a pocket, took a deep breath, then let out a shriek and leaped around the corner.
The two guards, caught completely by surprise, turned toward her, their mouths dropping open as she leaped around like a crazy woman, frantically slapping her arms and shoulders and back.
"Ants!" she screamed desperately. "Ants! Help me, I'm on fire!"
Both men leaped over the sandbag barrier and came running, their paintball rifles slung over their shoulders. They were not much older than she was, both of them ex-Green Berets.
When they got within five feet, Elizabeth pulled out her pistol and shot both of them in the chest, bright orange paint covering their fatigue shirts, stopping them in their tracks.
"Shit," said the guard whose name tag read Jones, falling back.
"Sorry, gentlemen, but you're dead," she told them sweetly, as she holstered her pistol. "Now, if you'll be so good as to lie down, with your heads turned, I'll get dressed."
Jones laughed. "I may be dead, ma'am, but I'll be damned if I'll turn around."
The other instructor, named Gomez, was laughing too. Heshook his head. "They warned us that you might try something cute."
Elizabeth put her bra on and pulled up her jumpsuit top and rezippered it. "Macho pigs," she said brightly, pulling out her pistol again.
"Yes, ma'am," Jones happily agreed.
The flag of Iraq flapped gently in the light breeze above the entryway as Elizabeth ducked inside. She waited a full minute for her eyes to adjust to the relative darkness before sprinting down the narrow corridor. She flattened herself against the wall next to the commandant's door, then rolled left, kicked it open and burst into the small office, sweeping her gun left to right.
The briefcase sat in plain sight on top of the unoccupied desk and even before Don Billings, the instructor playing the role of the commandant, stepped out from behind the door and wrapped his arms around her, she realized her mistake.
For an instant she tried to struggle free, but then willed her body to go limp in his arms. "Dammit," she said softly.
"Nice try, McGarvey, but I was watching from up front," Billings drawled. He was from Memphis, and the first time she sat in on one of his classes she'd pegged him as a smarmy, oily bastard. His hands were on her breasts. "Nice," he said in her ear.
She slowly turned in his arms and raised her face to his, her lips parted in a seductive smile. "I'm glad you approve," she told him, her voice husky.
He started to kiss her, when she grabbed his testicles and squeezed hard. His face turned white and he reared back on his tiptoes.
"Nice balls," she said, then she let go, stepped back and shot him in the chest at point-blank range. "You're dead."
Billings was enraged. "Fuck," he said through clenched teeth.
"Keep your hands to yourself, Mr. Billings," she said. "Next time I won't be so gentle."
"This exercise is over."
"Tell it to your wife."
"Goddammit, your approach wasn't in the scenario."
Elizabeth laughed, the look on his face was rich. "Neither was yours."
She grabbed the briefcase, slipped out of the office, waved merrily at the two guards, then made her way back across the creek. It was Friday, the late-summer weather beautiful, and as she walked she sang a little French song her father had taught her on one of his infrequent visits when she was a young girl, the day and nearly everything about her life just now absolutely perfect.
Kirk McGarvey parted the venetian blinds in the ops officer's office as Liz marched up the hill, her shoulders back, the briefcase in her left hand, the paintball pistol in her right as if she were willing and able to take on the world. His heart swelled with pride. The failure rate for the exercise she'd just successfully completed was almost one hundred percent.
"She's on her way up," he said, turning back to the ops officer.
Paul Isaacson, a big, red-faced Swede originally from Minnesota, laughed. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
"I want you to flunk her out, Paul. I want her out of here as soon as possible."
"You're kidding, right?" Isaacson said seriously.
"No, I'm not." There was a flutter in McGarvey's gut just thinking about her back in the field.
"I can understand your reason. My own daughter, Chrissy, is about her age. But hell, Kirk, she'd find a way around me, just like she did this morning." He shook his head. "She's not the kind to take a simple no for an answer. Anyway, I'm not going to do your dirty work for you. If you want her out, you can fire her when you take over the DO."
McGarvey looked sharply at him. "Where the hell did you hear that?"
"The word's out," Isaacson said. He and McGarvey went way back together. Though Isaacson had never wanted to be chief of station, he'd handled just about every foreign desk at Langley. In one way or another he'd been involved in almost every assignment McGarvey had ever been given. For the past five years he'd been in charge of training the new kids tosurvive the first couple of crucial years in the field. He'd not lost any of them because those who'd graduated under his tutelage were ready. And he still had an inside track at Langley for the simple reason that he'd trained half of the current staff in Operations, and the other half wished he had. He heard things.
"Well, I told the general no."
"Right," Isaacson said. He wasn't convinced. "Are you taking Liz for the weekend?"
"Unless her class is going to be busy."
"Hell week doesn't start until the twenty-fifth, so we're taking it easy on them right now." He popped a videocassette out of the recorder behind his desk and gave it to McGarvey. "Her only real mistake was not checking for hidden cameras."
McGarvey chuckled. "She's not going to be happy."
"What about Don Billings? He was way out of line, but if he'd really been an Iraqi commandant it would have been worse."
"They're even. And I expect he'll think twice the next time he wants to grope a woman."
Isaacson gave McGarvey a long appraising look. "Working behind a desk would be different than being out in the field. You'd have to get used to the idea of sending green kids out there, who in your estimation wouldn't know how to wipe their own noses. Might be some tough calls." He glanced toward the window. "But it'd be a shame to throw away your experience, even if the Company has treated you like shit. I know a lot of guys over there who'd like to see you take the job. They'd feel more comfortable than they did under Ryan."
"I'll get her back to you Sunday night."
"Do that," Isaacson said. "But give her a chance, Kirk. You had yours, don't take this one away from her."
"Maybe she'd be one of the green kids I'd have to send out."
"Maybe," Isaacson said. "That's the whole point of this place."
McGarvey nodded, then headed out to where his daughter was perched on top of a picnic table with several of her classmates, all of them young men who eagerly hung on everythingshe was saying. He was even more unsettled than he had been in Murphy's office this morning.
It took Liz less than twenty minutes to shower, change clothes and pack a few things, then meet her father outside the barracks where he was smoking a cigarette. It was a few minutes before one, and the Farm was already winding down for the weekend. She looked bright and innocent in a crisp white cotton blouse, short khaki skirt and sandals, her hair pulled back and still damp.
"Are we having dinner with Jacqueline tonight?" she asked, tossing her bag in the backseat. She had a bittersweet look on her face.
"We're meeting her for drinks at Jake's at four, so we're going to have to hustle," McGarvey said. "Do you know something that I don't?"
"Just girl talk," she said mysteriously. "But I'll let her tell you." She gave her father a look that said it would be totally useless for him to try to pry anything else out of her.
The Farm was in Camp Perry off Interstate 64 outside of Williamsburg, about 150 miles south of Washington. Traffic was moderately heavy but moved well.
When they were away McGarvey gave his daughter the videocassette. "Paul gave this to me. Presumably it's the only copy."
"What is it?"
"You might want to take a look and then get rid of it. But don't let your mother see it."
Sudden understanding dawned on her face and she looked from the tape to her father. "Hidden cameras?"
"All over the place."
A rueful smile curled her lips. "Did you see it? Everything?"
McGarvey nodded. "They're going to come down on you pretty hard at Monday's debriefing."
"I got the briefcase, Daddy," she retorted defiantly.
"If that had really been Iraq you wouldn't have made it."
"I gave them a distraction."
McGarvey had to laugh. "One that's going to make the rounds this weekend."
"Billings is a prick."
"He's one of your primary instructors, and you've still got a lot to learn from him if you'll keep your mouth shut long enough to listen."
Liz gave her father an appraising, manipulative look that McGarvey caught. He'd spanked her once when she was a little girl for the same thing. "I thought you wanted me out," she said.
"Don't play games, Liz. And don't count on the operational experience you got in France and Moscow, because you didn't do such a hot job. Nearly got yourself killed, as a matter of fact."
She lowered her eyes. "I know, Daddy."
He wanted to take her in his arms, cradle her, protect her. But she was too big for that now. It was something he should have done years ago, but never had. "I want you to get out of the Company, or at least out of the DO. But if you're going to do a thing, then do it right."
"I know," she said, looking up. "I'm a McGarvey."
"Don't forget it," McGarvey said, trying to be stern.
She smiled warmly. "Never happen."
Jake's was a trendy new sidewalk cafe on Canal Street much frequented by the younger set of Washington's movers and shakers. Traffic was heavy by the time McGarvey and his daughter arrived a few minutes before four. They found a parking place a block away and walked back to the crowded restaurant.
Liz hadn't said anything else about Jacqueline, but it hadn't been difficult to figure out what was going on from her odd mood. The two of them had been doing a lot of talking over the past couple of weeks. Jacqueline had even driven down to Williamsburg to take Liz to dinner. And at the odd moment Mac's old teaching position at Delaware's Milford College had come up. Jacqueline had even reread his partially finished book on Voltaire and had made a few suggestions, from a Frenchwoman's perspective.
They had to wait for the light to change before they could cross at the corner. Jacqueline was seated at a sidewalk table near the entrance, and when she spotted them she waved gaily. She was wearing the pale blue Hermés scarf McGarvey had given her in Paris. It was like a wedding ring to her, a mark of possession.
Time finally to settle down? he asked himself, crossing the street. He was afraid of it.
She was Mediterranean classic. With a pretty oval face, dark eyes, a flawless olive complexion and rich, sensuous lips. She had the earthy look of Sophia Loren. Like the actress, she was aging beautifully, and would continue to do so. But whatever else she was besides that, she was an intelligent and very capable French secret service officer.
She raised her face to him, and McGarvey kissed her before he sat down.
"Liz has a secret which she refuses to share with me," McGarvey said. "Girl talk."
Elizabeth pecked Jacqueline on the cheek, then rolled her eyes. "I'm going to the ladies' room. Be back in five." She gave her father a significant look then was gone.
"She's a wonderful girl," Jacqueline said, watching her thread her way between the tables. She turned back. "Like you in many ways."
Jacqueline nodded. "And a little bit difficult." She averted her eyes. "Lonely."
"That's one of the reasons I want her to get out of the business."
"It won't happen unless she wants it. I don't think even you could force her to leave."
The waiter came. Jacqueline was drinking a kir, and she ordered another. McGarvey ordered a cognac neat; he figured he was going to need it.
"She's been talking about her mother. What does she have to say about all this?"
"Katy doesn't want her to follow in my footsteps."
"Neither would I, if I were her mother," Jacqueline said.
McGarvey studied her troubled face. He'd been against her coming back to Washington with him. There were still toomany issues unresolved from his past. Dangerous issues which could hurt her. But she wouldn't listen to him, or to her control officer in Paris. She'd resigned, but the DGSE had simply placed her on an extended leave of absence.
"Is that what these past couple of weeks have been all about, Jacqueline?" he asked. "You want me to get out of the business and take my old job at Milford? Finish the book? The two of us settle down in a little cottage by the Chesapeake? Happy forever after?"
His remark hurt her, which is what he'd intended, because he was frightened again for her safety. "You're a real shit," she flared, suddenly angry, her French accent thicker than usual. "Who do you think you are, Candide? Wandering through life an innocent. No blood ever sticks to your hands?" She shook her head in frustration. "Merde. Who made you God anyway? Judge, juror, executioner? You kill anyone you want and nothing happens to you. It slides off your back because you've convinced yourself that what you're doing makes for a better world. Well, killing never solved anything. Don't you understand? Can't you get that through your head? You can't fix the world with a gun! Salopard!"
It was as if she had plunged a knife into his chest, directly into his beating heart. "Go back to Paris," he said softly.
She said nothing, and he waited. When he'd lived in Lausanne, the Swiss police had sent Marta Fredricks to watch over him. Like Jacqueline she'd fallen in love with him, and like Jacqueline she'd followed him after a particularly bad assignment. It had gotten her killed. He was desperately afraid for Jacqueline. As he was for his daughter. The only one finally clear was his ex-wife, Kathleen. She was safe. It was one of the few constants in his life.
"I love you, Kirk," Jacqueline finally said, reaching for him.
"I know," McGarvey said. He kept his hands folded on the table in front of him.
Her face dropped again. "I must know if you have any feelings for me."
"You want me to make a decision so you can tell it to Paris," McGarvey said hurtfully. "So you can justify your decision not to return."
Jacqueline was fighting back tears. This moment had beencoming for a long time. "I want you to be safe."
"You want me to marry you. But first I have to give you my word that I'm out of the business, permanently, otherwise you'd never be able to return to France, even for a visit."
It was the reason for Liz's bittersweet mood. She liked Jacqueline, but she still held the faint hope, almost a fairy-tale hope, that somehow her mother and father would get back together. If he married Jacqueline, Liz's impossible dream would fade even farther into the background.
Jacqueline met his eyes and nodded.
"Return to Paris, Jacqueline," he said. "You have a life back there, a home, roots, family. I can't give any of that to you."
"But I love you," she said defiantly.
"That will fade," McGarvey said, hating himself for what he was doing to her. But he'd known it would come to this from the beginning, and yet he'd been selfish enough, lonely enough, not to end it before it had begun.
Jacqueline studied his face for a very long time, her eyes filling. "It's eating you alive, my darling," she said very softly, almost a whisper. "Get out while you still can, if for no one's sake except your own."
She gathered her purse, got up and headed for the exit as Elizabeth returned from the bathroom.
"Jacqueline?" Liz called out.
McGarvey was about to turn back to his daughter, his mood dark, his emotions rubbed raw by what he had just done, when he noticed a black Mercedes E320 darting through traffic on Canal Street toward them at a high rate of speed and accelerating. There was a man in the front passenger seat and one in the backseat, the windows down. Assassins, something in his gut told him. They were meant for him. Somehow they knew that he would be seated outside this restaurant at this moment.
Jacqueline started to turn back at the same moment the Mercedes passed the restaurant entrance and the man in the backseat tossed something out the window.
"Bomb!" McGarvey shouted. He shoved the heavy wrought-iron patio table over on its side as he jumped up and reached for Elizabeth.
The package fell short at Jacqueline's feet.
McGarvey caught Elizabeth's wrist and dragged her to the floor as the bomb went off with a tremendous flash and bang, glass and metal fragments tearing through the fifty or sixty restaurant patrons who'd had no time to react. People screamed in terror and agony even as glass shards continued to fall around them.
The patio table McGarvey had pushed over had saved him from the brunt of the blast, which had taken out the front of the restaurant, the wrought-iron fence and striped awnings. Traffic had come to a complete halt, several cars nearest to the restaurant damaged by the explosion.
McGarvey raised up in time to see the Mercedes round the corner to the right on 31st Street, the wrong direction, he thought, if they were trying to get across the river on Key Bridge. They would have to double back on South Street.
Two police officers trailed by a civilian came running across the street. Jacqueline was gone, the spot where she'd been standing nothing but a smoking crater two feet deep.
"Oh God, Daddy?" Liz cried weakly and McGarvey turned to her.
Her right side from the waist up was a mass of blood and gashed flesh, glass sticking out of dozens of wounds, and a six-inch piece of smoking metal was jutting from her side just below her left armpit. She was looking up at him, her eyes wide.
"The bastards were after you," she said through clenched teeth.
"Here!" McGarvey shouted. He was at the edge of panic. "Over here!"
"How's Jacqueline--" Elizabeth tried to raise up.
"Take it easy, Liz." McGarvey held her down. "Over here!" he shouted. "We need help!"
Elizabeth looked down at her wounds. "I'm okay, Daddy. Did they get away?"
The civilian reached them. "I'm a doctor," he said, pushing McGarvey aside. "Over here," he called to one of the cops carrying a first aid kit.
Elizabeth looked up into her father's eyes. "Is Jacqueline dead?"
"Get the bastards." She mouthed the words.
McGarvey was torn by indecision. Jacqueline was dead, his own flesh and blood lay gravely wounded at his feet and there was nothing he could do about it. But then a black rage rose up inside of him. Once again his little girl had been put in harm's way because of him. This time the bastards had hurt her badly. They'd torn her body, shed her blood. But for a split second she would be dead like Jacqueline, her body torn into a million pieces of flesh and bone.
All of that from the instant of the explosion was less than thirty seconds. Already the doctor was opening the paramedics' kit and was attending to Liz. Other people were coming to help.
McGarvey stepped back, Liz's eyes still locked with his. She nodded and smiled grimly. "Go," she whispered.
McGarvey turned and sprinted out of the restaurant, slipping and nearly falling on the glass and gore. He reached the street and raced toward Wisconsin Avenue, the opposite direction the killers had taken. At the corner, traffic had slowed, and in the distance he could hear sirens. Some people had gotten out of their cars to see what was happening.
The Mercedes was nowhere in sight. But it had to come back this way, because there was no other route out other than the ferry terminal under the freeway at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue. Unless it had made a U-turn on 31st Street, in which case he'd lost them already.
Taking out his pistol as he ran, he switched the safety off. A half block away, just before the canal bridge, he moved out into the street between parked cars. The farther away from the blast, the more normally traffic flowed. Most people a block away from the restaurant had no idea what had happened, except that a man with blood on his side and carrying a gun was running up Wisconsin Avenue.
Traffic parted as he crossed the bridge, and then the Mercedes was heading directly toward him.
McGarvey stepped into the middle of the street and raised his gun. People on the bridge stopped to stare, scarcely believing what they were witnessing.
"Get down!" McGarvey shouted at them. "Get down!"
The Mercedes accelerated directly toward him. McGarveywalked toward it, firing at the windshield, one measured shot at a time, like a bullfighter calmly walking into the charge of a two-ton animal bent on his destruction.
He could see the glass starring, then shattering. Fifty feet away the car suddenly swerved left and smashed into a bridge stanchion, then careened right, crossed both lanes and finally crashed into the concrete railing.
The front passenger door popped open and a slightly built Asian man dressed in a dark shirt and slacks leaped out. He had a pistol. McGarvey fired three shots, all of them catching the man in the chest, driving him backwards half into the car.
The driver was dead and the rear-seat passenger jumped out the other side. McGarvey crossed behind the car and fired one shot, missing as the man ducked down behind the fender. McGarvey's gun was empty, the slide locked in the open position. Still moving around the back of the car, McGarvey ejected the spent magazine with one hand while pulling out a spare magazine from his pocket with his other. He rammed it home and released the ejector slide as the second man suddenly leaped up, smashing a karate blow to McGarvey's right collarbone, making him drop the gun, his arm and hand instantly numb.
He parried the Asian's next blow with his left forearm, and before the killer could come around to the right, McGarvey hooked his foot behind the man's right ankle, pulling him completely off balance and pitching him backward to the pavement.
Before he could recover, McGarvey dropped down hard, his knee in the man's groin, his forefinger and middle finger in the man's eyes.
"Who sent you?" McGarvey demanded, the blackness threatening to block out all sanity. He couldn't see anything but his daughter's bloody body and the smoking crater where Jacqueline had been standing.
The man clapped his hands against the sides of McGarvey's head, a fierce pain shooting through his ears into his skull. McGarvey drove his fingers through the killer's eyes, deep into the man's skull, then picked his head up by the eye sockets, blood spurting out, and slammed his head against thepavement, once, twice, a third time until the man's body went limp.
"Christ!" McGarvey pulled his bloody hand away, the black rage slowly dissipating. People at the sides of the street looked at him in horror. Traffic had backed up on both sides of the canal bridge, and sirens were coming from all over the city. He wiped his hand on the dead man's shirt front. He'd gone berserk, completely out of control. No force on earth could have stopped him from destroying the three men who'd hurt his child. Now nothing mattered except getting back to her.
He stumbled backward off the killer's body, retrieved his gun and holstered it at the small of his back as he headed back to the restaurant.
The first of the police units were arriving at the canal bridge as McGarvey rounded the corner onto Canal Street into a scene of utter bedlam. Dozens of ambulances, fire-rescue units and police cars had already arrived, and others were coming in as the first of the wounded were being taken away. A pall of smoke and dust still hung in the air. Glass littered the entire street from shop and office windows that had been blown out by the blast. People were everywhere, some of them rescue workers, onlookers gawking at the carnage and others affected by the explosion wandering around in a daze.
"Hey, you can't go in there," a cop shouted as McGarvey pushed his way through the crowd.
"My daughter is in there," McGarvey said.
"She'll be okay, buddy, people are taking care of it." The cop tried to steer McGarvey toward one of the paramedic trucks, but McGarvey pulled away.
"My daughter's in there," he repeated himself, and he shoved the cop aside. "She's hurt. I'm going to her, okay?"
The cop saw something dangerous in McGarvey's eyes, and he backed down. "Suit yourself." He turned away.
Elizabeth, strapped onto an ambulance gurney, was just being wheeled out of the devastated remains of the restaurant as McGarvey reached the spot where the exit had been. She was unconscious, her face pale, her blond hair matted with blood.
"She's my daughter. Where are you taking her?" McGarvey asked the paramedics.
"You're taking her to Georgetown. It's almost as close and it's better," McGarvey said. He was having trouble focusing.
"We don't have time to argue--"
"We're going to Georgetown, and I'm coming with you. Do you fucking understand what I'm saying?"
The attendant opened his mouth to argue, but then nodded. "Yes, sir," he said. "Georgetown."
Copyright © 1999 by David Hagberg