“I CAUGHT him on the rooftop, diagonally across from the club. It was twilight, the best time, in my opinion, for sniper work, so I was lucky. I admit that. I was also pretty pissed off: a fucking sniper at my rdv. A leak somewhere, that was what I was thinking when I came at him…”
“This was in Bangkok,” Jack McClure said.
Dennis Paull, the head of homeland security, nodded. “That’s right.”
The two men were sitting in Paull’s study, secreted within his red brick, Federal-era townhouse in Georgetown. Outside, a velvet night had descended, along with a rain that pattered softly, misting the windowpanes.
Jack shifted in the leather club chair. “How long ago?”
“Legere’s rendezvous or his debriefing?”
Paull opened a dossier on the desk in front of him. It was buff-colored, with a black stripe down the left side, denoting Eyes Only status. He looked sallow and worn, his pale gray eyes lying sunken within dark circles. “The encounter occurred eight days ago. The debriefing, which was conducted by myself, a day later.”
Jack sat forward. “You conducted the debriefing alone?”
“Legere is my asset.”
“I didn’t know about him.”
Paull’s eyes flicked up to encounter Jack’s steady gaze.
“Nor did I know why you had gone to Bangkok. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“Now,” Jack said, taking a sip of his Bulleit rye, “that there’s a problem.”
Paull sat back in his swivel chair. “And you’re my problem solver.” He cocked his head. “What is it, Jack?”
“Don’t give me that.”
Jack sighed, placed the old-fashioned glass on his boss’s desk. “Ever since I got back from Sharm el-Sheikh I’ve been under the impression there’s a glass wall between us.”
“You’re wrong.” Paull took up his three fingers of bourbon, sipped it thoughtfully, then placed the glass precisely three inches to the right of the open dossier. “It wasn’t Sharm el-Sheikh; Sharm el-Sheikh is where all the debts were settled, where Alli’s past was finally healed. How is she, by the way? Adjusting to Interpol’s procedures?”
“She’s based out of Paris, but currently she’s on assignment; a back of beyond where she’s unreachable.”
“Good for her. But, Fearington being an FBI feeder academy, I had assumed she’d apply there.”
“I don’t think that was ever her intention. In any case, she needed to gain some distance from recent events.” Jack waved away the diversion. “Let’s get back to the problem at hand.”
“We are faced with several problems,” Paull interjected. “Let’s start with Rome. It’s what happened in Rome that concerns me.”
“Specifically the Syrian, or should I say Iraj Namazi, the Iranian, so you have informed me.” His gaze fell heavily on Jack. “Annika is now with Namazi, in what capacity…” He paused, thinking out the route he would take. “Now that her grandfather is dead, she’s allied herself with Namazi, isn’t that right?”
Jack nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak. His breath was hot in his throat, and his heart contracted at the reminder of Annika’s latest betrayal.
“This woman,” Paull said, “is perhaps the most dangerous female on the planet.” He reached for his bourbon, then seemed to change his mind. “This is the woman you love.”
“Loved,” Jack said, finding his voice. “Past tense.”
“Is that so?” Paull steepled his fingers, tapping the tips together ruminatively.
“It is, Dennis.”
“You can turn it on and off at will.” His tone made his skepticism clear. “You’d tell me if it were otherwise, wouldn’t you, Jack?”
“I would.” Jack nodded to the tape recorder on Paull’s desk. “Let’s get on with it.”
“We’re talking now of allegiance.” Paull turned his glass around and around on the desktop. “Speaking bluntly, my fear is that you’ll try to find her.”
“I’m your problem solver, Dennis. That’s why you hired me; that’s why I’m here.” But Jack now knew that Paull had a second agenda. In addition to being a fine administrator, he was an astute judge of human nature. Possibly the two facilities were intertwined. He knew full well how deep Jack’s love affair with Annika went. In addition, though he and Jack had never spoken of it, he suspected there was depth to Jack’s friendship with Annika’s grandfather, Dyadya Gourdjiev, murdered a year ago in Rome.
As if to prove Jack right, Paull said, “It’s not just Annika. Now that she’s shown her true colors, your relationship with her is, I think, complicated enough without members of her family further gumming up the works.”
“What works?” Jack said, a bit too sharply.
“Your thought processes.” Paull leaned forward suddenly, elbows on the desk. “Your intense loyalty is one of your strengths, Jack. But, in this case, I wonder if it might become a liability.”
“I haven’t thought about it,” Jack lied.
Under Paull’s penetrating gaze, he reached out and depressed the “play” button. Legere’s plummy voice rolled out across the wood-paneled study:
“He must have heard me because he swung the M82A3 Special Application scoped rifle right into my face—”
Jack stiffened. “That’s a U.S. Marine weapon.”
Paull nodded, silent.
“Beneath this thick bandage the wound is horrendous.”
“Legere was pointing to his cheek,” Paull said.
“I’ll need plastic surgery. I can’t go back into the field with this on my face. How would I ever melt into a crowd? It’s like a neon sign.”
Paull’s voice on the tape said, “The sniper,” guiding Legere back on track.
Legere: “Yes, well, I hope he was a better sniper than he was a hand-to-hand fighter.”
Paull: “And yet you killed him.”
Legere: “An accident. I hit him, his knees buckled, and he fell against the concrete parapet. The back of his head split open.”
Paull: “Pity he couldn’t tell you who he worked for.”
Legere: “I know who he worked for: the Syrian.”
Paull: “Have you brought me proof?”
Legere: “The sniper’s rifle. Who else but the Syrian would have access to a U.S. Marine rifle?”
Paull: “Please continue.”
Legere: “I found the sniper after twenty minutes of recon of the rdv’s immediate area. It was now one hundred hours. I went into the club.”
Legere: “WTF. It’s at Thonglor Soi 10. Very farang friendly, so I felt right at home. Lots of girls in shorts cut so high you can see the lower hemis of their ass cheeks. They’re all dancing in super high heels, though God alone knows how. Snotty kids, anyway.”
Paull: “Your contact, Legere.”
Legere: “Right. I bellied up at the far end of the neon-lit bar, just as plan