The Assassin (Ryan Kealey Series #2)by Andrew Britton
A weapon of catastrophic destruction. A nation on the brink of unspeakable disaster. And the ultimate enemy lies closer to home than anyone realizes.
Only maverick CIA agent Ryan Kealey sees the threat for what it really isbut Washington refused to listen. With the lives of millions at stake, Kealey has only one option:/b>
New York Times Bestseller
A weapon of catastrophic destruction. A nation on the brink of unspeakable disaster. And the ultimate enemy lies closer to home than anyone realizes.
Only maverick CIA agent Ryan Kealey sees the threat for what it really isbut Washington refused to listen. With the lives of millions at stake, Kealey has only one option: to take matters into his own hands. And the clock is ticking. . .
Supercharged and fiercely intelligent, The Assassin is an action-packed international thriller where no one can be trustedand the final aftershocks are felt until the very last page.
Praise For Andrew Britton's
"Brilliantly well-written with plotting sharper than a fence full of razor wire, a sizzling page-turner. . .even Washington insiders will be reading this thriller not once, but twice!" Brad Thor, USA Today bestselling author of Blowback and Takedown
"A terrifying and gripping journey into the mind of a terrorist." Stephen Frey, New York Times bestselling author of The Chairman
"Like Tom Clancy. . .a thriller that makes current terrorist threats all too real. . .highly recommended." Library Journal (starred review)
Read an Excerpt
By ANDREW BRITTON
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Andrew Britton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWASHINGTON, D.C.
Dusk was settling over the city skyline, layers of gray falling through rain-laden clouds as a black Lincoln Town Car sped south along the river on the George Washington Parkway. From the front passenger seat, Jonathan Harper gazed out across the Potomac as riverside lamps pushed weak yellow light over the black water. Although his eyes never strayed from the passing scenery, his mind was in another place altogether, fixed on the news that had come into his office less than four hours earlier. As a result, he wasn't really paying attention to the radio, which was tuned to a local news station and playing softly in the background. When the commentary began to align with his own ruminations, though, he leaned forward and turned up the volume.
"In Baghdad today, U.S. and Iraqi forces were put on high alert. Additional checkpoints were set up throughout the city, and the State Department updated the travel warnings already in place. This, following the attempted assassination of Nuri al-Maliki in the Iraqi capital. At approximately 12:14 AM Baghdad time, a pair of massive bombs tore apart the second and third floors of the Babylon Hotel, located just south of the International Zone. According to embassy officials, the prime minister survived the near-simultaneous blasts, although his condition is believed to be critical. Preliminary reports indicate that as many as twenty-five American civilians, mostly reporters embedded with the U.S. forces, are still unaccounted for and believed dead in the aftermath of the attack.
"In a press briefing held earlier today at the White House, President David Brenneman condemned the bombing and offered condolences to the families of those who were killed. In a surprising sidebar, he also reaffirmed his commitment to the goal of force reductions in the region. These reductions are an integral part of the president's reelection platform, as they provide for the scaled withdrawal of U.S. forces over the course of five years. The president's plan, which also calls for the return of four of eighteen provinces to Iraqi control by next April, has been ridiculed by the Democratic leadership as too conservative in scope. Even so, with this most recent incident, many are wondering if the president will be forced to rescind his promise to the families of America's servicemen and women, a move which would almost certainly cost him the election in November.
"Moving on to other news, demonstrations in Beirut were brought to a halt yesterday when-"
Harper switched off the radio. The report hadn't told him anything new, which wasn't surprising. He already knew far more about the current situation than the Washington press corps ever would, despite their collective fact-gathering abilities.
As both the deputy director of operations (DDO) and director of the newly formed National Clandestine Service, Jonathan Harper shared the number three spot in the Central Intelligence Agency with his counterpart in the Intelligence Directorate. Despite his seniority, only a handful of people on the Hill could have picked him out of a crowd. The reason for this was simple: the name of the presiding DDO was almost never released to the public, the sole exception being Jim Pavitt's appearance before the 9/11 Commission in 2004. Even Harper's appearance seemed to lend itself to anonymity. His wife often joked that the conservative Brooks Brothers suits he favored were hardly worth the cost, as they made him all but invisible in a well-dressed city such as Washington, D.C.
It was, of course, an image he had long cultivated, and for good reason; his ability to blend into the background had saved his life on more than one occasion in his early years with the Agency. He'd spent much of the eighties running agents in the former Soviet Union, as well as sneaking high-value defectors out of the country through the western wastelands of Belarus and Bulgaria. Recently, his roles had been better suited to his age and station, which made them more ambiguous and much less interesting. Among other things, he had been assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office and a number of foreign embassies before assuming his current position four years earlier.
Harper's gaze drifted back to the window as his driver turned left on 17th Street. He wasn't looking forward to the upcoming meeting, as he knew it probably wouldn't go well for him. As it stood, the Agency's presence in Iraq was extremely limited, despite popular belief to the contrary. He had made a case for additional funding and personnel earlier in the year, only to see his proposal shot down by the newly installed deputy executive director. This fact, he was sure, had not been revealed to the president. Harper's immediate supervisor was a skilled politician in her own right and more than capable of presenting the facts in accordance with her own ambitions. As a result, Harper was sure that she had managed to relieve herself of most of the blame for this latest intelligence failure.
Worst of all was the timing. With the presidential election looming on the horizon, Brenneman was facing public unrest over the ongoing war, sagging approval ratings, and a popular adversary in California Governor Richard Fiske. Iraq, of course, was the key issue; the governor's proposal called for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces on the order of 72,000 soldiers over the course of eighteen months, with scaled reductions to follow. Privately, Harper believed it to be an empty promise, but the American public had seized the opportunity to rid itself of a war for which the costs were rapidly becoming untenable. Brenneman's proposal was far less ambitious by comparison, calling for the gradual replacement of U.S. forces by combat-ready units of the Iraqi Army. Since the latest statistics suggested that less than 20,000 Iraqi troops currently met the requirements, the president's plan had taken fire from politicians on both sides of the partisan divide, as well as from the public at large.
Harper's vehicle approached the southwest gate of the White House, braking to a gentle halt next to the guardhouse. A pair of officers from the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service emerged immediately and proceeded with the security check. The gates swung open a moment later, and the Town Car rolled up West Executive Avenue to the first-floor entrance of the West Wing.
Harper climbed out of the vehicle and immediately caught sight of his escort. Darrell Reed was a senior advisor to the president and the deputy chief of staff. He was a lean black man with an easy smile and a genteel manner, but Harper knew that Reed's affable nature did not extend to the cutthroat world of D.C. politics. The deputy chief could be as ruthless as the next man in the exercise of his considerable power, as he had demonstrated on countless occasions.
Reed smiled as he approached and offered his hand. "John, how are you?"
"Well, I think that remains to be seen. Ask me again when this meeting is over."
The deputy chief shook his head, the small grin fading. "The president is not a happy man, I can tell you that much. Ford's already here, and they've had some words."
Harper grimaced. "She's supposed to be in Israel with the director."
"She was on her way back to take care of some routine business," Reed replied. "The president called her in this morning." He cleared his throat. "It's the timing, John, and the civilian casualties. He wants some answers."
"So do I, but it's going to take some time."
"Unfortunately, that's the one thing we don't really have."
Harper nodded glumly; he knew what Reed was referring to. In the press briefing earlier that day, the president had assured the American public that the murder of U.S. civilians in Iraq would not go unpunished. With the election less than two months away, those words would not be soon forgotten.
"We haven't even seen a claim of responsibility yet. I just hope he can follow through on the promise."
"Well, that's where you come in. He's expecting you."
Harper shrugged. "Lead the way."
Chapter TwoWASHINGTON, D.C.
Once inside, they passed through another security check and began the 70-foot walk to the Oval Office. As always, Harper couldn't help but think about how easy it was to get into this building. It was all an illusion, of course; despite the apparent lack of security, he was well aware that the Secret Service had eyes, electronic or otherwise, on virtually every part of the West Wing, including the adjacent hallways that led to the president's corner office. When they stepped into the room, the deputy chief of staff gestured to one of the couches scattered over the presidential rug and said, "Take a seat, John. I'll go and see what's holding him up."
Reed walked out, giving the DDO the opportunity to briefly examine his surroundings. It wasn't often that he found himself alone in the president's office, and the small space contained enough of his country's past to keep Jonathan Harper, a self-proclaimed history buff, absorbed for hours. His eyes drifted over numerous oil paintings, most of which had nautical themes, before coming to rest on the towering colonnade windows. Soft light from the bulbs in the Rose Garden spilled through the panes, working with the dim interior lamps to illuminate the polished surface of the president's desk.
Harper knew that the beautifully detailed piece had been crafted from the hull of the HMS Resolute, a British vessel abandoned in the Arctic Circle in 1854. In 1855, the ship was discovered by an American whaler as it was drifting over 1,200 miles from its original position, having dislodged itself from the ice in which it was mired. Over the course of the following year, the vessel was restored by the American government and returned to England as a gesture of goodwill. When the Resolute was retired in 1879, Queen Victoria commissioned a desk made from the timbers, which she then presented to Rutherford B. Hayes. Almost every president since had used the desk during the course of his administration.
He was about to stand to get a closer look when the door leading to the Cabinet Room was pulled open. Harper rose as President David Brenneman walked in, followed soon thereafter by Rachel Ford. The deputy director of Central Intelligence, or deputy DCI, was a pale, trim woman in her early forties. As usual, her shoulder-length hair was slightly askew, tendrils of dark red framing her attractive, albeit sharp-featured, face.
Brenneman approached and offered his hand. "Good to see you, John. How's Julie?"
Harper nearly smiled at the mention of his wife, but stopped himself when he saw the president's grave expression. "She's doing well, sir, thanks."
"Glad to hear it." Brenneman forced a tight smile of his own and gestured to the couch. "Please, take a seat, both of you. Make yourselves comfortable."
The president walked behind his desk, shrugging off his suit jacket as the two CIA officials picked out chairs. A navy steward moved into the room and deposited a tray bearing a small carafe, cups, and creamer. The man withdrew as Brenneman joined them in the meeting area, smoothing a blue silk tie against his crisp white shirt.
"So," he said, fixing them both with a serious look. "I have quite a few questions for both of you, but first, let's make sure we're on the same page. My advisors seem to agree that this was a deliberate assassination attempt, as opposed to a random attack on a target of opportunity. I know how it's being carried in the press, but I'd like to hear your opinions."
"I don't think there's any question." Ford crossed her legs and focused her gaze on the president. "Of course, I'd like to know what he was doing outside the zone in the first place. Setting that aside, though, it's just too much of a coincidence. A 'target of opportunity' would warrant nothing more than a suicide bomber on foot or an RPG. We certainly wouldn't be seeing anything like the devastation that actually transpired." She didn't need to expand on this; they had all seen the video footage aired by CNN.
"I agree," Harper said. "And there's something else: the Babylon has gates that are manned by the Iraqi Police Service. It would have been almost impossible to get something past them without a great deal of planning."
"Or their help," Brenneman muttered.
"That, too," Harper conceded. "We'll be looking into that, sir, but it might be difficult, since they'll be the ones tasked with the investigation."
"That's true." Ford fired her subordinate a disapproving glance. "We do need to be careful about whom we trust in the IPS, but I wouldn't recommend trying to cut them out of the loop. That will set a negative tone at a very sensitive time, especially if al-Maliki doesn't survive the assassination attempt."
And you're advising the president on things that don't concern you, Harper thought. Ford was an outside appointee; most of her career had been spent serving the constituents of Michigan's 3rd Congressional District. After four terms in the House, she had turned her attention to Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she'd served as dean prior to accepting the president's nomination earlier in the year. In Harper's opinion, she still had a lot to learn about her new position, particularly the limits of her questionable expertise.
It looked like Brenneman caught it, too. He glanced sideways at his deputy DCI, the message clear in his stern expression, but she missed it entirely as a noise intruded. Ford snatched her cell phone off the table and flipped it open impatiently. "What is it?" She listened intently, then turned to the president. "Sir, this is urgent. May I ...?"
He nodded abruptly. Ford jumped to her feet and walked into the adjacent Cabinet Room, closing the door behind her somewhat harder than necessary. Brenneman shot his subordinate a bemused glance. Harper worked to keep his face impassive, but suspected the president knew exactly what he was thinking.
His suspicions were confirmed an instant later. "Something on your mind, John?"
Harper shook his head in the negative. Leaning forward to pour himself some coffee, he idly wondered why he harbored such an intense, transparent dislike for Rachel Ford. It wasn't that he found her lacking in intellect; her education, beginning with Sarah Lawrence and culminating in a JD from Harvard Law, could hardly be found wanting. The fact that she was technically his superior didn't bother him, either; Jonathan held no reservations when it came to working for a woman. After all, he had done so often enough in the past, and it had never been a problem before. In short, he didn't know how the animosity, which was decidedly mutual, had come about.
The president was leafing through a briefing folder. "Seventeen American casualties? Is that right?"
The DDO cleared his throat and said, "Actually, sir, that report is several hours old. The latest numbers in from the embassy confirm nineteen dead. Five more are critically injured."
Brenneman's dark brown eyes grew darker still, but he didn't respond. Instead, he tossed the folder onto the table and appraised his visitor for a long moment. Finally, he said, "She brought up a good point, you know."
Harper was momentarily caught off-guard. "Al-Maliki," Brenneman reminded him. "What was he doing outside the zone?"
The other man considered his response for a moment, wondering if the president's main concern lay with the American loss of life or the attempted assassination of the Iraqi prime minister. "Sir, when was the last time you were in Baghdad?"
"Six months ago, I think. I went to address the troops and to take a look at the new embassy."
"What were the roads like?"
"God awful, and that's probably generous on my part. Of course, it's a straight shot from the airport to the zone, so at least the travel time wasn't too bad."
"A straight shot for you, sir. Moving around Baghdad is different for everyone else, even senior Iraqi officials."
A slight frown appeared on the president's face. "How so?"
"Well, first they have to fill out a form that states where they're going and why. Then they have to request vehicles and bodyguards. All of this has to be done the day before a scheduled movement. It's very inconvenient, especially when, even after all of that, you still get stopped at three different checkpoints on your way in and out. Most of the top guys look for ways to avoid it."
Excerpted from THE ASSASSIN by ANDREW BRITTON Copyright © 2007 by Andrew Britton. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Born in England, Andrew Britton moved with his family to the United States when he was seven, settling in Michigan, then North Carolina. After serving in the Army as a combat engineer, Andrew entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received his degree just before his death in 2008, at the age of 27.
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