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The End Game
The End Game 16
Temp said, “You know as well as I do, Carl, that many terrorist organizations, like ISIS and Al Qaeda and Hezbollah, would like to bomb the world back to the Stone Age and reduce civilization to rubble. Their only goal is to be the last ones standing. Question: can Spenser’s bomb accomplish this for them?”
Carl paused. Given Bayway, and positing that only a very small portion of one of Spenser’s small bombs, then yes.
“Temp, this is very scary.”
“At least now we have a visual on Damari, Carl, and with that we can stop him, hopefully before he can steal one of Spenser’s bombs and get it to Iran and Hezbollah.” A pause, then, “You think we can catch him, Carl? In time?”
“With all our agencies focused on Damari, I’m hopeful.”
Temp looked decidedly happier. “Yes, of course you’re right. We stop Damari, we get our hands on Spenser’s gold-coin bombs, and you know what? No one will care that we had a CIA operative undercover on U.S. soil.”
Carl knew his boss very well indeed. A master of justification and strategy. He said, “Yes, we must accomplish both those things. And you’re right, if we do, all our sins will be forgiven. And we might save the world while we’re at it.”
Temp didn’t laugh, he was too deep in plots, reeling out scenarios in his mind. “But here’s the thing, Carl, the vice president wants names in this organization by tonight, or heads will roll. And that means confessing we know all the players because we had Vanessa embedded with them.
“I like this job, and that means if I have a chance of keeping it, when Vanessa is out of surgery we’ve got to find out everything she knows. You know there’s more, there’s always more. When she is able, you need to find out what these fanatics are planning to do next. Knowing who they are doesn’t help us anymore. We’ve got to find out about their next hit, and Vanessa has to know about that. If only we knew where they were, we could pull them in right now, Damari with them.”
Carl said, “When Matthew Spenser and Zahir Damari find out Vanessa’s still alive, you know they’re going to want to kill her.”
“Of course, of course. I’ll send agents over now to cover her. Carl, you know once this all shakes out I’ll have to testify in front of Congress and they will want names. It could come out that she designed the COE bombs, all for a good reason, of course, getting the technology behind those gold-coin bombs, and that might make them back off a bit, but I hate to take the chance. On the plus, she did confirm COE is planning an assassination, and hopefully she will give us much more, so we could still come out whole-hide.
“Now you’ve got to get back to Vanessa, give me more to work with. Surely she knows where they’re headed, their next target, and how Damari is going to kill the vice president. And ears to the ground—is he indeed targeting someone else?”
Carl splayed his hands on the desktop, leaned in close. “Listen, Temp, Vanessa might die, that’s how badly wounded she is.” He felt tears burn his eyes. “Don’t you understand? I don’t give a rat’s ass if Sloane finds out we’ve been operating on American soil if Vanessa dies.”
“I understand, Carl.” Then Trafford paused for a moment, and Carl realized he was seeing a brilliant mind come up with a solution. He waited.
Temp said slowly, “I think I know how to save our asses and keep those idiots in Congress from censoring us. You will quietly give all the needful information to Maitland at the FBI. If they manage to find these people and bring them down, we’ll stand back, out of the limelight, and let him and his team take the credit. Nicholas Drummond and Mike Caine are the leads on COE, both smart and focused. Maitland has put Dillon Savich on the case—they’ve worked with him in the past. Yes, they’ll fit right in. And if they manage to stop Damari, then no one need ever know the CIA was involved here.”
“I see a big hole,” Carl said. “If Vanessa survives surgery, the FBI will insist on speaking to her. There’s no way, if you’re forced in front of Congress, that I’ll allow Vanessa to be thrown to the wolves, Temp.”
“No, no, of course not. Carl, I can massage that. This is our play: we’ll dump it off on the FBI, let them run with it. They can have all the glory and keep us out of it. Vanessa isn’t dirty. She was trying her best to keep us all safe. They’ll understand and we’ll cover for her. I promise, it will all work out.” And he beamed at Carl and added, “I want you to meet with Drummond and Caine personally and give them anything they want to help them find Matthew Spenser and Zahir Damari. Many lives are at stake, Carl, not the least of which is Callan’s. You must find out what Vanessa knows about COE’s plans, when and where, before the FBI grills her. Then we can move toward neutralizing this assassination threat against Callan, because the last thing we want is her dead. You’re on board, right?”
When Carl Grace left him, Trafford sat down at his desk, laced his fingers behind his head. He’d been tired, but now, if everything went right, if Maitland’s wunderkinds proved themselves as great as their rep, then he would keep his job and the CIA wouldn’t get a black eye.
• • •
Carl’s cell phone rang as he left Trafford’s office. It was the hospital. His heart hammered in his ears; his mouth went dry. “Any news?”
The nurse said, “Mr. Grace, your niece started bleeding internally again and that bottomed out her blood pressure. They believe it was into her collapsed lung, on the side of her pneumothorax. The doctors are still working on her. I’m afraid it’s rather dire, sir.”
KING TO F1
George Washington University Hospital
Vanessa wasn’t floating this time. She knew immediately she was in the hospital, knew she was in bed, tethered to more needles than she wanted to think about, all of them helping her stay alive. Yes, she was still alive.
She couldn’t open her eyes, nor could she really think, so she let herself drift. Back, back to Londonderry, Ireland. Was it four months ago that it all started? She remembered being undercover in Northern Ireland, working her way ever closer and closer until finally Ian McGuire had talked in a lowered voice about the Bishop, patting her hand, telling her how he was the one she needed to join up with, given her amazing talent at building bombs.
The Bishop this, the Bishop that; Ian had a serious love affair going on with the man who was her target. He and Ian had been together seven years, Ian told her finally, they’d met up in a bar in Italy, of all places, found they were like-minded, and they’d traveled all over Europe, a bit of destruction here, a bit of havoc there, and the Bishop had finally surpassed Ian, he freely admitted it, sounding for the world like a proud papa.
No one had heard of the Bishop before a year ago, when he burst onto the scene with a bombing at an oil depot in France, no deaths, and that was a surprise, but the CIA was on it immediately. He had no face, no name, except the Bishop, and she’d been sent to Ireland because he was a known associate of Ian McGuire’s. And then came the chatter about his advanced nanochip gold-coin bombs, undetectable to the normal scans and powerful in their destructive capabilities. The CIA wanted the coins, wanted them badly, and they wanted the recipe, if possible.
And she’d had a chance to get close to him.
Ian had permission to invite her to a meeting, eyes shining with excitement. Again, the proud papa. “The Bishop’s comin’, Van, at last you’ll get to meet him. I’ll tell you, I’ve been singing your praises to him for long enough. He’s your kind of bloke, so smart it’s scary, and he knows how to hate. And who to hate, for that matter. And I know he needs a good bomb maker, and you’re the best. Throw you a brick of Semtex and you could blow up the moon, that’s what I told him.”
Vanessa wondered why he needed a bomb maker if he’d created the ultimate tiny undetectable bomb, but since she wasn’t supposed to know about the coins, she couldn’t ask Ian. She supposed the Bishop hadn’t perfected them yet.
Vanessa felt a spike of pain deep inside her chest. She heard the beeping, but the pain began to ease, then it drifted away, and her brain could wander back again.
Ian and the Bishop shared the same single, overarching desire—getting rid of the followers of radical Islam swarming all over Europe and the UK, before their terrorists killed everyone in their quest to destroy the Western devils, and the Bishop determined the best way to do this was to destroy oil refineries to make their owners stop buying Middle East oil.
She saw Ian chucking her under the chin, felt the affection he had for her. “The Bishop believes it’s time to mete out justice at home. His home, your home. So what do you think? You want to see the Bishop? Perhaps throw in your lot with him, head to America? That’s where what we do will really count. I’m in, Van, how about you?”
Vanessa felt wetness on her cheek. She realized it was tears. Tears for Ian, shot down simply because he’d tried to protect her.
She also realized she couldn’t die.
KNIGHT TAKES D4 CHECK
Criminal Apprehension Unit
Maitland found Savich and Sherlock together in Savich’s office. Like every other agent in the FBI, they were talking about the Bayway explosion and COE.
“No, don’t get up, you two,” he said, and closed the door, knowing that everyone in the CAU was staring, wondering if there’d been a break, what was happening.
Maitland pulled up a chair. “I just came back from a meeting with McGuiness of National Intelligence; Templeton Trafford, CIA; and the vice president.” And he told them what had happened.
When he finished, he sat back, shaking his head. “We all know everyone wants to protect his own turf, but I tell you, where McGuiness would spew it all out if she thought it would make her look good, and take full credit for knowing it, Temp Trafford has more secrets than the Sphinx. I’ll bet under that titanium vest of his lies answers to most of our questions, and he ain’t about to share, no matter what he says, no matter how critical the situation.
“The only thing I’m positive about is that Trafford didn’t know about Damari, and the threat of assassination of Callan Sloane and possibly others, but COE—you bet. And how, I wonder?”
Sherlock said, “The CIA always has a reason. But finding out what it is?”
Maitland said, “Trafford isn’t about to let anyone stick their nose under his tent.”
Sherlock said, “All of us understand the tremendous pressure the CIA is under to protect the U.S. from any foreign threat, but Trafford—why doesn’t he realize it’s time for him to cough up everything he knows? I mean, lives are on the line here, and everyone knows Bayway signaled that COE is stepping up their game, that another probably larger refinery has already been targeted.”
“You’d think.” Maitland sighed. “Why I’m really here, Savich, is to assign you to work with Drummond and Caine, coordinate on this end, since all the push is coming from the vice president and she’s laid this in our laps. Starting now. I’ll barbecue you the best corn on the cob if you bring COE in and stop Damari. Oh, yes, I’ve cleared this with Milo in New York. He’s on board.” He rose. “Mossad believes it’s Iran and Hezbollah behind the contract on the vice president. We need to stop them.”
When Maitland disappeared from Savich’s office, Sherlock grinned at him, punched his arm. “For you, Big Dog, it’s obviously only a small assignment. Why, you can whip out the answers in a matter of minutes.”
As for Savich, he felt pleased at the huge vote of confidence and worried he couldn’t pull it together and the vice president could be shot. No, not going to happen. Who had hired Damari wasn’t his concern, Damari was. So first things first.
Sherlock rose. “You know what I’d like to do? Wrap my hands around Trafford’s throat and shake him until he gives up everything he knows. And you and Nicholas and Mike are supposed to uncover everything in one day?”
“Looks like it.” Savich laughed, picked up his cell to call Nicholas to give him the good news that he was now coordinating his investigation, whatever that really meant, in addition to his own boss, Zachery.
Savich’s cell blasted out Blondie’s “Call Me.” Speak of the devil. “Nicholas, I was about to call you. There’s a lot—”
Nicholas overrode him. “Listen, this is crucial, Savich. We think we’ve found the last knowns of COE. We have a witness who claims there was a group of four people staying in an apartment in Brooklyn. Last night, the place burned down. Here’s the kicker—one of the men staying at the apartment looked Middle Eastern. Which leads to the question—if this guy really is Middle Eastern, then what the bloody hell is he doing hooked up with a bunch of fanatical terrorist haters who want the West to stop importing oil from terrorist countries, which includes just about all of them?
“Our witness said when the original group returned late last night—we’re assuming from the Bayway bombing—the Middle Eastern man wasn’t with them. Like I said, we need to find out who he is. We’ve got a sketch artist working with the witness, and—”
“Nicholas, stop a moment. Send me the sketch when it’s finished and I’ll see if I can’t find out who this guy is. Now, are you and Mike familiar with Zahir Damari?”
“Yes, of course,” Mike said in the background. “Überassassin, arguably the most deadly in the world. He’s a really bad dude, on everyone’s most-wanted list. Why, what’s up, Dillon?”
“We found out a couple of hours ago that he’s here in the United States. The Mossad believes he’s going to try to assassinate the vice president. Maybe others, still unverified. Probably Iran and Hezbollah behind it. Yes, yes, I know, the peace talks.”
Stunned silence, then Mike’s voice in the background: “And I thought our problems topped the list. You’re not putting us on, are you, Dillon?”
“Wish I were. Let me tell you all of it.” After Savich had briefed them, he said, “Sherlock says not to worry, that I’ll be a great coordinator, and look at the bright side, it’s only a day or two before we get this wrapped up. Now tell me about the fire in Brooklyn, your witness, and whatever else I need to know.”
Once they’d told him about the shooting, the fire, and the black Suburban that carried away an unconscious woman lying beside the burning building, Savich said, “It’s all coming together; we simply need more and we need it fast. I fear there’s another terrorist attack coming and we have to stop it. Find that Suburban and find that woman. We’ve got to know who pulled her out of the fire.”
“She’s the key, I know it,” Mike said.
“Could be. Keep me posted. Nicholas, give me the description your witness gave you of the Middle Eastern man, then send me the sketch the moment you get it.”
KING TO G1
West 30th Street, Chelsea
New York City
The black Suburban was registered to an address in the middle of the block of 30th Street. It was a brown brick high-rise, recently redone. The long, narrow lobby was clearly visible through the big front windows. They saw a doorman inside, another man behind a counter. Tenant mailboxes filled the wall opposite the doors.
Mike pulled the Crown Vic up in a no-parking zone, put her FBI card in the window.
“Gray said fifteenth floor,” Nicholas said. “At the very end of the east hallway, 1507.”
They breezed by the doorman and the young guy behind the counter, their creds held high. “FBI, we’ll talk to you later,” Mike said. The elevator was fast, with no tenants getting on to slow them down. Mike knocked on the bright red door of 1507, waited, knocked again.
They knew they were being studied through the peephole, so Mike held up her creds.
“FBI. We’d like to talk to you.”
They heard chains falling, a dead bolt twisting, and then the door was pulled open
by a pretty young woman sitting squarely in her mid-twenties. She had long, straight black hair and wore stylish black glasses, a short plaid skirt, and Doc Martens on her small feet. A perfect advertisement for Ms. New York Hip.
“Goodness, FBI?” She splayed her hands in front of her. “Listen, I haven’t done anything, I mean, I couldn’t have even if I wanted to since I’ve been here all morning. Oh, I’m sorry, come in, come in.”
She waved them toward the living room, but Mike shook her head. “Agents Caine and Drummond, FBI. And you are?”
“Ms. Finder, do you own a black Suburban?”
Ms. Hip laughed. “Not a chance. I’m a lifelong New Yorker. I have a driver’s license only for ID.”
Nicholas showed her the screen of his phone. “Ms. Finder, we show a black 2009 Chevy Suburban registered to this address. In the name Melody Finder and that’s you.”
“Well, yes, you already know I’m Melody Finder, but I think I’d know if I had a car.” A gray tabby poked its head from beneath a green-and-white-striped sofa, then ambled over to ribbon between Melody’s feet. “Tigger, not now, you’re going to make me fall on my face. Oh, dear, get back, no, you can’t run out!” She grabbed the cat. “Sorry about that, I really need to close the door or my critters will make a break for it. Please, come in and tell me why you think I own this car. There’s got to be a mistake.”
The space was a small loft with floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of natural light. Not much furniture, only the sofa and three chairs, all in shades of green and white, a couple end tables loaded with magazines. A big silver tabby lay on its back in the middle of the sofa, smack in the center of a shaft of sunlight.
At the sound of his name, the cat cracked an eye, gave them a stare, then promptly fell back to sleep.
“I don’t think Pooh is all that ready to run free,” Mike said.