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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

First Kill

A Kirk McGarvey Novel

McGarvey (Volume 24)

David Hagberg

Forge Books



Kirk Cullough McGarvey, at twenty-eight, was in such superb physical condition that near the end of the eight-mile confidence course he had raised only a light sweat. He had the circuit all to himself this morning, his second go-around for the day.

None of the fourteen recruits midway through their training at the Farm, the CIA’s facility along the York River near Williamsburg, had elected to run with him again, and he was secretly glad for the solitude, something hard to come by here.

He had demons riding on his shoulder, whispering scandalous secrets in his ear, not only about Katy, his wife of three years, but about someone coming for him. Someone lying in wait for him to make a mistake, turn the wrong corner, fail to keep up with proper tradecraft; to forget to always mind his six, be forever hyper-aware of his surroundings, any little bits and pieces that seemed to be out of place.

It was the field agent’s stuff that done right saved your life, but done wrong—just one mistake that often led to a chain of missteps—would cost you your life, or at the very least end you up in a gulag somewhere.

The last mile wound its way through the woods along a path that was mostly uphill, some of it steep. In the distance to the left, away from the river, the sound of small-arms fire drifted his way on a light breeze. Someone shouted something, the words indistinct, followed by a sharp explosion. Urban incursion exercises.

At the final rise McGarvey stopped. He was a little under six feet with eyes that were sometimes green or sometimes gray depending on his mood or the circumstances, husky without being muscle-bound, and handsome in a rugged sort of way. Most women found him devastatingly masculine.

Spread out below was the Farm’s center—the administration buildings, barracks, dining hall and the various classrooms where experienced field agents, some of them who’d worked deep cover in badland as NOCs, No Official Covers, taught the newbies how to survive. It was something that was very often impossible. The stars, no names, on the granite wall in the lobby of the original CIA Headquarters Building at Langley marked the deaths of field officers who could never be publically recognized for their service.

Truth, justice and the American way was their motto, but at times situations became so goddamned lonely that McGarvey had to stop in midstride, like now, to wonder why the hell he, or anyone, for that matter, would opt for this sort of life.

But his answers from the beginning of his three-year career to this point were: It’s what I do. Who I am.

At one of his annual psych evals a Company shrink pressed him on his motivations. “Are you in it for the money?”

“Not on a GS-13’s pay,” Mac had shot back.

“But then you’re a rich guy, aren’t you? You inherited your parents’ cattle ranch in Kansas and instead of following the family tradition you sold it. So money has no meaning for you. But maybe it’s ego that drives you. You want to prove a point that you’re the smartest man in the room. Maybe you get a laugh or two. Or maybe it’s something buried in your conscience? The beating you gave the high school players you caught trying to gang-rape a girl? Maybe you regret it.”

That eval had been in the late fall, just like now. The day had been gloomy at Langley, a low overcast sky, a light drizzle that was close to snow. It had infected just about everyone on campus, so tempers were short. His included. He was tired of being fucked with.

“MICE, is that what you’re talking about, doc?” It was the company’s acronym for why people became traitors to their country: Money, Ideology, Conscience or Ego. The shrink was asking him if he’d thought about defecting.

The psychologist had glanced down at McGarvey’s file and smiled. “You’re married, you have a young child and plenty of money to give them a very good life.” He looked up. “So why go through this kind of shit? They want you for black ops, but of course you know that because you volunteered. So what’s the real deep-in-your-gut why of it, Mr. McGarvey?”

“Maybe I want to make a difference.”


“Maybe I hate bullies and I want to even the score.”

“More bullshit,” the shrink said. “Your primary evaluator wrote that you were a man who values the truth above just about everything else. Sounds good on paper. But why are you here? What do you want, McGarvey? The truth, now.”

“Washington is great at solving the big problems,” he’d said. “Winning the space race. Building the biggest nuclear arsenal. Flexing our financial muscle to bring some dictator into line. Fielding a first-class army. Deploying more carrier fleets than every other country combined.”


“We’re next to worthless when it comes to the little bits and pieces. The lone gunman who slips under our radar and manages to put a bullet into someone’s brain. A couple of guys hijacking an airliner. The bomb maker who decides to take out a football stadium in the middle of a game.”

“Extrajudicial sanctions.”

“Actions Washington can’t take because of our laws.”

“Who decides what needs to be done?” the shrink asked. “You?”

“The president. The DCI. The Bureau. Not me.”

“You want someone to point you in the right direction and send you off.”

“It worked in the early days of Vietnam. But everything started to go bad when we put more boots on the ground, and it got even worse when we started bombing Hanoi. All our nuclear weapons, all our aircraft carrier groups and all our ground troops and economic sanctions could not win the war.”

“You want to be an assassin, is that it?”

McGarvey had nodded, not at all surprised by the look of disappointment, even revulsion, on the psychologist’s face. But the need was valid. In his first three years he’d been sent on a half-dozen deep-cover assignments in Europe and twice to the Middle East. Brief missions, usually nothing more than a little fly in the corner, nothing more. Observe and report. HUMINT—Human Intelligence—operations. He’d seen and reported and had given his recommendations.

Copyright © 2019 by David Hagberg