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The End Game
The End Game 18
Surfer Dude backed up fast, wheezing. He spat out blood. “Hey, mate, you aren’t all that bad, for an FBI pussy,” and he sprang to the side, whirled around, and came at Nicholas with a flurry of kicks and punches.
“And you’re a right pain in the arse,” Nicholas said, and landed a massive uppercut that sent Surfer Dude stumbling backward, still grinning, even with a line of blood coming from a cut above his left eye. Who is he? What’s going on here?
Mike didn’t interfere. All the lethal weapons were in the Suburban, and Nicholas was the better fighter. And the big plus? He was having fun. Why deny him? Mike only wished she could be the one doing the pounding, relieve some of her frustration. She checked her watch. “Sorry, Nicholas, time’s a passin’, finish him off. If you do it within the next ten seconds, I’ll take you to the gym myself, let you go a round with me.”
Nicholas hit him hard in the nose and blood spurted out. She saw visions of the media claiming brutality, and called out, “Okay, that’s enough.”
Nicholas reined in immediately, gave her a quick grin, started to put him in a half nelson, but Surfer Dude managed to break free and took off running.
Mike rolled her eyes. The idiot. “My turn,” she said, and bolted after him. She caught him quickly, tackled him from behind, drove him down into the concrete floor as the elevator doors opened and Ben Houston ran out with five agents on his heels.
Nicholas lifted Mike off his back and hauled Surfer Dude to his feet one-handed, threw him back against a car, got into his face. He jerked off his baseball cap, then grabbed his shirt and shook him like a dog.
Mike yelled, “Nicholas, hold him still. Good grief, does he look familiar to you?”
Nicholas hauled him up close. “Bloody hell, even with the bloody face, you’re that guy in the photo, Melody Finder’s boyfriend. You’re supposed to be in Paris, studying how to chop onions and debone chickens.”
Surfer Dude was panting hard, but he still managed a grin, even with the dribble of blood coming out of his nose. “I tried to tell you before you started pounding my face in. I know who you are, too, you big bastard.” He stuck out a hand sporting bloody knuckles. “Craig Swanson, CIA.”
KNIGHT TO C3 CHECK
CIA—bloody bollocks, I should have known. You’re a bloody spook.” Nicholas wanted to punch him a couple more times, but he heard Ben and the other agents laughing behind him. He backed off. “All right, you bleater, show us some ID.”
“I’m all the identification you’re going to get, pal. I don’t carry creds like you federales. They call it being undercover for a reason.”
True enough, Mike had to give him that. Mike waved to all the weapons. “I suppose this traveling armory is part of your undercover job?”
“We’re not supposed to use our personal vehicles, but it was a bona fide, true-blue emergency. I loaded up and made it a tactical vehicle, had no clue if it would be needed. No choice, I had to hurry.”
“Mike,” Ben called out, “I imagine the NYPD are outside the garage as we speak, wondering what to do. Tell you what, since you’re having so much fun with our CIA brother, we’ll go upstairs and handle things for you.”
“Ben, you stay here,” Mike said. “Tommy, Lynn, could you go upstairs and deal with the NYPD?”
The agents disappeared back into the elevator.
Nicholas said to Swanson, “You registered the car in your girlfriend’s name? Kinda dumb, dude.”
“Hey, I’m not picking on your methods.”
“Your girlfriend thinks you’re in Paris and doesn’t know you have a Suburban.”
“No, I didn’t tell her that, she didn’t need to know. She’s part of my cover.”
Mike’s eyebrow went up. “Does she know about the weapons stashed down here?”
“Certainly not; it would scare the crap out of her. But she is part of my world and she’s good. I’ll bet she convinced you guys she was as straight as an arrow, all cute swagger in those Doc Martens of hers.”
Mike said, “Yes, she sure did.”
“Let me wipe the blood off my nose.” Craig snagged a rag out of the back of the Suburban and pressed it to his nose. “It doesn’t feel broken, that’s good. Having Melody, it’s one of the perks of working for the Agency, you get to tell the people you love what you do. She knows to tell anyone who comes asking that I’m a chef, studying the restaurant business. Helps for when I need to make overseas runs. And I am an excellent cook, no lie there.”
Mike said, “Like I told you, she was good, believable; she lied right to our faces, smiling all the while. Hmmm, I think I might go back upstairs and pound on her.”
For the first time, Swanson looked alarmed. “Nah, please don’t, she’s a sweetie, bought into the whole deal, plus she thinks I’m very cool. However, this time it doesn’t appear she did a good enough job, since you’re here poking around, looking for me.”
“No, she’s a very good liar,” Nicholas said. “We saw you pull the Suburban into the garage. You didn’t even bother to check your surroundings before you led the FBI right to your doorstep. Now, enough fun and games. What were you doing in Brooklyn last night? Who’s the redheaded woman you took away? Where is she? We know she’s involved with COE, so that means you aided and abetted a terrorist, and you better believe I will light you up like a Christmas tree in two seconds flat if you even try to lie to me.”
Swanson stopped cold, held his hands palms out in front of his face. “Listen, you want more, you gotta talk to my boss. I’ve said all I can. Trust me, mate, we’re on the same side.”
Nicholas turned to Ben. “His girlfriend is up in 1507. Go arrest her on obstruction.”
He turned back to Swanson. “You got something to say to me before we arrest Melody?”
Swanson said, “No, no, don’t arrest her, she didn’t do anything. Seriously, that’s a low blow. Leave Melody out of this. All right, I’ll talk to my boss.”
“And who might your boss be?”
“Let me use my phone and I’ll call him. He can debrief you from here. Please, don’t arrest Melody.”
“Not a chance in Hell, mate. You give me names, I run a background to make sure you aren’t lying, then you can talk to him.”
Swanson pulled the cloth away from his nose, saw no new blood, and managed a sneer. “And here I thought all you FBI types were nerds and wing tips. But not you, you’re a real tough guy.” He touched his fingers to his nose. “I gotta say, you have a mean right hook.”
“The contact, now, or you’ll see my left jab, and trust me, you won’t like it.”
Swanson spit blood onto the garage floor. “All right, all right. Lighten up. My boss is going to rip you a new one, not me.” He read off a number.
Ben typed it in on his tablet. “It’s legit. Goes to Langley.”
Mike said, “Call it, Ben.”
Ben dialed the number from his own phone. It connected and he put it on speaker.
A male voice said, “Craig? Everything okay?”
Nicholas spoke over him. “This is Special Agent Nicholas Drummond, FBI. Please identify yourself.”
There was a brief pause. “Carlton Grace. CIA.”
Ben started tapping away, looking for the name. A few moments later, an eyebrow raised, he nodded.
“Agent Grace, we have your subordinate Craig Swanson in custody. He was—”
“Drummond?” They heard a whistle. “Well, how’s that for luck. I already spoke to your boss, Milo Zachery. You and Mike Caine need to come down to Langley to meet with me right away.”
“You never know, do you?” Craig Swanson said, grinning.
Nicholas managed to resist smacking him again. His spook boss had already cleared it with Zachery? What was going on?
Nicholas said, “We’re not going anywhere unl
ess you tell us right this minute what this is all about.”
• • •
Carlton Grace laughed low and quick. “What’s wrong with you? You know I can’t tell you a thing, not on this open line. Agents Savich and Sherlock will be here as well. It’s time. Oh, and Drummond? Bring Swanson with you. He needs a few lessons in subterfuge, apparently.”
The line went dead. Swanson was still grinning.
“Ain’t that a kick?” Ben said.
Nicholas looked at Mike. “What in the bloody hell is going on here?”
She was playing with her ponytail, staring off at nothing in particular.
“Nicholas. Remember I told you the redhead was familiar to me? Well, I remember who she is.”
“How do you know? Facial recognition hasn’t come through; we don’t even have Mrs. Antonio’s sketch of her.”
“Everything clicked into place. Her name is Vanessa Grace, the same name as Craig’s boss. Is she related, Craig?”
“Yes, he’s her uncle.”
“I went to Yale with her. Nicholas, she’s got to be CIA, too.”
Nicholas’s eyebrows went up a good inch. “You’re telling me COE has a CIA agent inside?”
“Had,” Swanson called out. “Not any longer.”
Nicholas turned on him. “Bugger off, Swanson. You people, you’re as bad as the Foreign Office. You had someone inside and you didn’t bother to let us know? Particularly after Bayway—why weren’t we informed?”
“Hey, man, that decision is way above my pay grade.”
All Nicholas could think of was how many lives could have been saved if the CIA had only told them about their undercover agent. He wasn’t surprised, this sort of interagency secrecy was one of the reasons he’d left MI6.
“Mike, please call Zachery and verify this. I’m calling Savich.”
KING TO G1
Before Nicholas had a chance to call Savich, his cell phone blasted out one of Sousa’s marches. Nigel, he thought, and when had he programmed that bouncy hit in?
No, not Nigel. Adam Pearce. At last.
He nodded at Mike and stepped away.
“Adam, what do you have for me?”
“Enough news I hope you’ve got a computer in front of you to type it all.”
“I’m in a basement garage in Chelsea with FBI agents and a moronic CIA undercover, so please keep it simple. I’ll call back for the rest.”
“Understood. You know that body you’re running DNA on? The one burned in the fire in Brooklyn? Did you hear who it matches?”
“I have not. And I must ask, how do you know before I’ve been notified?”
“You asked me to do all I could to find a way into COE. Since I work for you, it’s not like I hacked into any databases, not technically. And I do have a way in, if you’re interested.”
Nicholas said, “Adam. Let me say I’m very glad you’re working for the FBI and not against them. And you’re entirely correct: technically, you can do what’s needed to help solve this case. Tell me, who is the dead guy?”
“Ian McGuire. He’s an IRA bomber—well, he was until he got shot, then burned. He was the head of the Londonderry branch. We’re talking a guy who has a sheet the length of my arm.”
“Do you know when he came to the U.S.?”
“Good news and bad news. McGuire’s been here for several months, with his whole crew of fanatic nutcases, maybe eight of them, all long-timers. They came through different airports on different days, under known aliases.”
“How did we miss this? They’re on the watch list, aren’t they?”
“A lot of people are on the watch list, Nicholas. I believe I was on it for a while myself. It doesn’t take any great brainpower; people cross the borders all the time.”
“I trust you know where they’ve been, what they’ve been doing?”
“As much as I can reconstruct. I don’t know where his team is, but I think it’s safe to assume they allied themselves with COE. Speaking of which, let me skip ahead. I found the communications between COE and Gunther Ansell, the whiz in Germany. They paid old Gunther ten million for his proxy servers, then manipulated the code to insert the worm into the oil companies. All it took was a single click on an e-mail and the whole network got infected. Easy.”
“And then someone killed Gunther. So where are they, Adam?”
Adam sighed. “That’s the bad news, Nicholas. Until twelve hours ago, they were in Brooklyn. But now? I don’t know. They’re offline. There hasn’t been a peep on any of their IPs, not since the cyber-attack began. I’ve been sending feelers everywhere I know, but so are half the hackers in the U.S., looking to party along. COE went dark after the attack, and there’s nothing else I can do until they come back online, so I can’t get in if they’re not answering the door.
“But I do have something you’ll like. I found an e-mail generated out of one of their known IP addresses to a guy at a brokerage firm on Wall Street by the name of Porter Wallace. Wallace runs a couple of major hedge funds and is young, really young, to have so much power. He’s even been written up in The Wall Street Journal a few times. I can’t get into his system without an epic hack, and I’m juggling five searches as it is. I’ve sent you all the information I’ve found. You have a lot of manpower there. If your onsite team can start taking apart the data—”
“I will set them to it immediately.”
“Good, because there’s a possibility we can find a trace from earlier to tell us where they were headed next. Right now I can find no rhyme or reason to their targets.”
“What about the targets themselves? There must be a reason COE attacked the places they did. It takes too much time and effort and coordination to set the bombs, like getting plant plans to know where to set the bombs, like at Bayway, with this guy Larry Reeves. There has to be a tie-in. Find it for me, Adam.”
“I’m working as fast as I can. I’ll keep you updated.” And he was gone.
PAWN TAKES B6
Mike said in a friendly voice to Craig Swanson, “You move one step and I’ll flatten you.”
“I’m not budging,” Swanson said. “Hey, maybe you want to talk about this, maybe—”
Mike turned her back to him, said to Ben, “Whatever Adam’s telling Nicholas, it’s making him glow, so that means we’re getting some needed answers.” She shot a look at Swanson, who was very gently wiping the blood off his teeth, pushing them to see if they were loose. “And now we’ve got the CIA involved. I’ve got to call Mr. Zachery, see if he knows what this is all about.”
Ben looked over at Swanson. “Seems to me you’re safe from the CIA bozo, so I’ll head back to the office and see what’s happening. Work with Gray. The code he and Nicholas wrote to stop the cyber-attack last night was impressive. Gray’s got his team following up on it, patching all the remaining holes and working with the IT guys at the companies hit to get them back up and running. From what I heard, the damage could have been exceptionally severe, though I don’t think they’re letting the news out yet. If he and Nicholas hadn’t stepped in, we’d be facing a whole different issue. See you later.”
Once Ben had climbed into the elevator and was off, Mike looked over at Swanson again. He was sitting on the ground next to his Suburban, his arms clasped around his knees. He looked up. “Can I have my cell? I need to call Melody.”
“No. Well, maybe, if you tell me why you were planning on leaving a tactical vehicle full of weapons in an unsecured garage. This is SOP for the CIA?”
“No. I was going to unload shortly. I came to say hello to Melody.”
“Love life before work, then?”
Swanson shook his head at her. “You Feebs are so uptight. Surely you think those Doc Martens of hers are hot.”
“If I were your boss, Mr. Swa
nson, I’d pound your head with those Doc Martens.”
“Can I use my cell now?”
“No. Tell me how well you know Vanessa Grace?”
Swanson shrugged. “Like I told you, she’s the boss’s niece. I’ve met her a couple of times, but I don’t know her all that well. It’s not like we have asset undercover mixers. CIA’s not a sorority.”
“According to a witness, she was injured last night. What happened? Why were you sent in to retrieve her?”
“My boss called and asked me to grab her up. I did as he requested.”
“But you didn’t take her to the hospital, and she was badly injured. Why?”
“I follow orders even when I don’t agree. I was a combat medic in a past life. She was hurt bad, a bullet to her chest, broken bones, but Grace wanted her back in D.C. So I patched her up and put her on a CIA medevac chopper home. Did she make it? I don’t know.”
Mike gave him the fish eye. “Of course you’re lying.”
He had the gall to grin. “Nah, not about this. Far as I know, this ain’t classified. Can I have my cell now, to call Melody? No one else, I promise.”
Mike said, “No,” and she turned away and called Zachery.
“Agent Caine, is everything all right? Ben went tearing out of here, his hair on fire. And Louisa told me Nicholas has a bullet hole in his jacket sleeve.”
“We’re fine, sir,” she said, and she briefed him on the situation. “Did you agree that Nicholas and I should leave immediately for Langley to meet with a CIA agent named Carl Grace?”
“Yes. You and Agent Drummond have been asked to make an appearance at Langley to get a full debrief on COE and the Bayway bombing. I assume Dillon Savich has already called you, told you of our new interface with D.C.?”
“Speaking of Bayway, we’ve got the analysis of the bomb. It’s not exactly what we were expecting.”