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By William Heffernan
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Daisychain, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Alex Moran dropped his suit coat on his office sofa, seated himself in the high-backed leather desk chair, and turned to face windows that faced out across the rue de Rome at a wall of dull, lifeless buildings. The office was located only a few blocks from the Prefecture and several more from the opera and the innumerable Corsican-run whorehouses that surrounded it. An apt decision—he had often thought—to billet the Defense Intelligence Agency staff in close proximity to the political hacks and prostitutes it so often emulated.
Until a year ago, DIA personnel had operated out of the U.S. Consulate, under a still continuing guise as a U.S. trade mission. Then the Revolutionary Guards had stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and initiated a now endless hostage crisis. And suddenly the security of the consulates worldwide had become questionable, just as his staff's primary objective—monitoring East bloc shipping out of the Port of Marseilles—had fallen victim to its secondary mission, anti-terrorism. And so they had moved, and this new madness had begun.
Marseilles held an Islamic population so diverse it was rivaled only by Amman. This, together with its strategically located port, combined to make it a seat of Middle East intrigue, and Morah's staff of nine had been run ragged keeping watch on every Arab with known or suspected sympathies for their Persian brothers—which meant virtually every Arab in Marseilles.
But now even that had changed. Ernst Ludwig was in the city, and the Iranians—as Moran's Washington boss, Pat Cisco, had explained—were going to have to suck hind tit until he was caught.
Alex turned his chair back to his desk and opened Ludwig's file, which contained everything they knew about the man, sans photograph or physical description. But then, everyone who had ever seen him had been killed—by Ludwig himself—a running total that included five officers of various U.S. agencies.
There was a light rap on Alex's door before his secretary, Julie Ludlow, popped her head inside.
"You ready to start the day?" she asked as the rest of her slightly plump body eased into the room.
Julie was in her mid-thirties, favored a severe, out-of-date page boy for her dark hair, and dressed as though her job were merely a way station en route to a convent. Today she wore a flowered summer dress with a lace collar that left nothing but her arms exposed. Alex had inherited her two years before when he had been promoted to station chief, and had discovered she was deeply infatuated with him. Since that time he occasionally fantasized about how she might look with her armor stripped away. But, at best, it was a fleeting thought.
"Yeah, I suppose I am. What's first on the list?" He ran his fingers through his dark, wavy hair, then stared at the empty coffee cup on his desk.
"I'll get you some coffee," Julie said, catching his gaze. She retrieved the cup and continued to prattle. "You're supposed to see Jim Blount, the new boy in town. Give him a briefing on what you expect of him."
Alex groaned inwardly. "What's he doing now?" he asked, hoping someone had Blount well occupied.
"He's holding court on how he'd retake the embassy in Tehran. It's quite a daring plan, actually." Julie fought back a grin that almost made Alex smile.
"Good. Let's have him reassigned there and get right to it."
"Sorry, I'm afraid he's yours, for better or for worse. Shall I send him in?"
Alex nodded and turned back toward the window. For better or for worse. He stared at the building across the street, wondering what his wife, Stephanie, was doing at the consulate. The place where she worked, where he himself had worked until the Iranians decided to play "parade the Americans before the TV cameras." Maybe it wouldn't have happened if he'd stayed at the consulate. He snorted at the immaturity of the thought.
There was another light rap on the door, followed by the entrance of Jim Blount, a tall, angular man of twenty-four or -five—Alex couldn't remember. Somewhere on his desk was Blount's personnel folder, but he didn't much feel like looking for it.
"Grab a chair," he said, then waited for Blount to fold himself into one of two leather guest chairs across from his oversized desk.
Blount's eyes darted about the room, obviously taken with the government version of opulence bestowed on a chief of station. The room was reasonably large, furnished with leather sofa and chairs, carpeted and equipped with an executive-sized walnut desk. The walls held framed maps of France, Europe, and the countries dotting the Mediterranean, but none of the gratuitous, obligatory photographs of the boss with various political bigwigs. Even the photo of President Carter, sent routinely to every government office, was missing. It hung in Julie's outer office, only because Pat Cisco, Alex's boss, had insisted it hang someplace. But compared to the bullpen arrangement for his staff, the office was plush. The government's way of letting the staff know who was in charge, and of spending a few more pennies out of every citizen's tax bill.
"So, this is your first assignment out of training," Alex began.
"Yes, sir. I guess I'm as green as they come." Blount served up a boyish grin with the answer, one that seemed to suit him. He was tall—two or three inches taller than Alex's six feet—with the lean, rangy build of a basketball player. He had blond hair cut unfashionably short and an open, midwestern face that seemed clean-scrubbed and innocent.
"Where you from?" Alex asked.
"Tipp City, Ohio. That's about ten miles north of Dayton."
"Yeah, I know where it is," Alex said, producing an immediate grin from Blount. Apparently not many people he spoke to did.
"I've got your file here someplace, but I can't find it. Tell me about your background."
As Blount began, Julie entered carrying two mugs of coffee and placed one in front of each man. Blount was babbling on—Alex wasn't listening, had never intended to. He would read Blount's file later. This was just a necessary task he didn't much feel like doing.
Something Blount said made Julie smile, but Alex hadn't caught it. Maybe he was retaking another embassy somewhere. She was still grinning when she left the office.
"Are you married?" Alex asked when Blount had finished. The man might have already told him, but he had no way of knowing.
"No, sir. Not yet, anyway." He grinned again.
"Good. Keep it that way." The grin disappeared. "It's just easier," Alex added. "With the hours you'll have to work."
Alex leaned back in his chair. Time to get to the pertinent crap, he told himself. "What do you know about Ernst Ludwig?" he asked.
Blount's brow furrowed in concentration and he began reciting by rote. "German terrorist, age about thirty. Born in Aachen. Father a longtime communist who emigrated to East Berlin when Ernst was five. Educated in East Berlin and Moscow, trained as a terrorist in Libya. Speaks all pertinent European languages, along with Russian, English, and Arabic. Supposed to be the head of the Red Army Faction terrorist group that took responsibility for the disco bombing in Wiesbaden three weeks ago. Strong ties with the East German Stasi and its Libyan counterpart, but prefers to work independently, sort of a loose cannon."
Blount looked expectantly at Alex when he'd finished. Sorry, chum, Alex thought. No gold stars handed out here.
"You know why we don't have a picture or a physical description of this bastard?" Alex asked.
"The file said he's killed every agent who's seen him. German. French. Some of ours."
"Don't forget that part," Alex said, his left eye narrowing slightly. "You're going to be looking for him. Along with the rest of us. It's the only job we're doing right now. We've been thrown into a pressure cooker and told to find him—and to do it fast, before anybody else does. Before he gets out of Europe and into some Arab stronghold where we can't get to him. So we'll be pushing hard. Very hard. And I don't want to send anybody home in a box."
Blount shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Yes, sir" was all he said.
Alex squeezed his eyes between finger and thumb, then leaned forward. "I'm assigning you to work with Stan Kolshak. He's been around the block more times than he cares to remember. So listen to him. Do what he says. You go out armed. We don't usually do that, but Ludwig makes it necessary. Make sure you wear clothes that hide the weapon. We don't want to make our French friends nervous. Although in Marseilles a gun's about as shocking as a necktie. But any complaints raise hackles in Washington, and back there we've got a lot of people who'd be happy to climb over your bruised and battered body on their way to the top floor. And not only back there," Alex added as an afterthought.
When Blount had left, Alex gave the man a few more minutes' thought. Kolshak would be good for him. Keep him out of trouble. A picture of the forty-year-old agent came to mind. Big and brutish, but bright. Balding badly, with only a thick band of graying hair over his ears. Large nose, thick, stubby hands, all of it giving him the look of a middle-aged butcher, and making him almost indistinguishable in a crowd. The perfect field agent. And thank Christ he has no intention of retiring when he's eligible next year, Alex thought.
Yeah, he'll keep the kid out of trouble. Kid. Alex shook his head. At twenty-five he's only eight years younger than you are. Except, right now, you're thirty-three going on sixty.
Funny, he had liked Blount right away, something that didn't happen often. He was eager, genuinely so, and Alex suspected there'd be a natural antipathy in the man toward everything they were fighting against. Perhaps it was just that it reminded him of how he himself had been when he had started out eleven years ago.
Alex rummaged about his desk, finally locating Blount's file. He ran quickly through it. No, not much similarity at all. He thought back to his own beginnings with the agency. A doctorate in comparative literature at twenty-two. A prodigy—based solely on a memory that could not forget anything he had read—and headed for a life in academia that would have bored him to death. At least that's what his father had told him. But what else would Richard Pierpont Moran—Piers to his friends—have said, after spending his entire adult life in the OSS and CIA? It was not the life he had wanted for Richard, the favored, elder son. For Richard it was international banking. For Alexander, a chance to serve the nation, "not squander your intelligence on endless groups of insipid middle-class brats," as Piers had put it.
So he had been routed to the DIA, rather than his father's own agency, where he'd have had to live under Piers's overwhelming shadow. Now his father was retired and a director of the Florida bank Richard headed. And the number two son was in Marseilles, trying to catch a terrorist and keep his wife at the same time. Alex closed his eyes. Bit of self-pity there, he told himself. Bit of an Oedipus complex? No, just disgruntled at being the leastfavored son.
He looked back at Blount's file. No, you're right. Not really much similarity at all.
He put the file aside and scanned his desk, thinking about all the bureaucratic bullshit he still had to wade through. He had never thought about becoming chief of station before he married, about rising in the bureaucratic hierarchy. He had liked field work, the challenge. Yes, even the danger it occasionally involved. He sure as hell didn't like the back stabbing and political games that were integral to those who directed it all. But he had done it, because it seemed like the right thing at the time. To impress Stephanie? Or was it to show his father that he too could rise in the ranks? Who the hell knew. Or cared.
He pushed it all away and turned back to Ludwig's file. The problem—the only problem— was to figure out where the bastard was holed up. The KGB would be covering him. And that meant Bugayev. He had gone up against the KGB rezident repeatedly over the years, and as often as not, Bugayev had won. At best the game between them had been a stalemate.
He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a street map of Marseilles. He really didn't need it. The map, like everything he read, was imprinted on his mind. But it gave him something to do. Kept him away from the bureaucratic nonsense. Kept Stephanie out of his thoughts.
His eyes moved to the silver-framed photograph at the corner of his desk, and he reached out, took it, and slid it into the center drawer. He was good at hiding things. That was part of what being a spy was all about. Now he had to do the other part: find what the opposition didn't want him to find.
He looked back at the map. Something seedy in the Arab quarter of the old city? Could Ludwig pass as an Arab? He doubted it. Maybe something upscale. Christ, it wouldn't surprise him if Bugayev had him planted in an apartment in his own building. A few floors down.
What you need is more men on the street than you have available. Men who know every gutter and everybody who's walked through it. Leave your people to watch Bugayev's, see who they visit.
Alex sat back in his chair, accepting the inevitable. "Time to get some help from Uncle Antoine," he said aloud.CHAPTER 2
Ernst Ludwig sat on an overstuffed sofa, head back, eyes closed, as he listened to the Chopin prelude coming from the portable stereo recorder, and ignored the words of Sergei Bugayev that floated in from across the room.
"Listen to the music, Sergei," he said. "It will calm you."
"I am calm," Bugayev said.
"If you were, I wouldn't hear the clacking of those fucking beads."
Bugayev glanced down at the Arab worry beads he held in one hand. It was an affectation, at worst a habit. Something he had picked up during a posting in Syria years before. The same place he had first met this arrogant German, he told himself.
The Russian stared across the room. Ludwig's eyes were still closed and there was a slight smirk on his lips. But then Bugayev imagined it was there when the man slept as well, something permanently affixed to his handsome Aryan face. And there especially when he killed.
He despised the man and it made his job all the harder. Ludwig was well loved at Moscow Center. The jackal who did the bidding of their jackal, the Stasi, and did it without ever leaving a trail back to the lair, back to his true masters.
The latest "victory" had been the bombing of a discotheque in Wiesbaden. Fifteen U.S. servicemen killed, along with ten West German nationals. Dozens of both types mutilated. Another victory for socialism.
Bugayev snorted to himself. And now it is your job to get this scum safely to Libya, where, no doubt, those madmen will place a medal on his tunic. And all for the Rodina. Mother Russia. He shook his head. Ah, Bugayev, he told himself. You are thinking treason again. Someday you will say it out loud. Then you will find yourself behind the wire instead of outside it.
"I would appreciate it, comrade, if you would give me just a few minutes of your time." Bugayev used the term comrade formally, and with obvious distaste. He crossed the room and stood before Ludwig. The man's eyes were still closed, the smirk still fixed to his lips.
Ludwig jerked forward with such suddenness, it gave Bugayev a start. The eyes snapped open and the German stood, walked slowly to a mirror, and began running long fingers through his blond hair. "Of course, comrade," he said, imitating Bugayev's distaste, still looking at himself, turning his head from side to side. "Whatever pleases you."
He glanced at Bugayev in the mirror, amused at their images juxtaposed that way. Bugayev, short, fat, and balding, with a flat, Slavic face that was one step short of being truly ugly. And still dressing in those shapeless Russian suits despite so many years in the West. He allowed his eyes to return to his own features. The fine, slender Aryan nose, the strong jaw and wide mouth, the prominent cheekbones that set off the dark blue eyes that drew so many women to him. He smiled at himself, then held the smile, enjoying his perfect teeth. If I looked like this Russian, he thought, I'd plant a bomb in my own room.
Ludwig was laughing softly to himself as he turned to face the KGB rezident. He even smirks when he laughs, Bugayev thought.
"Is there something funny, comrade?"
"Not really. I was just noticing how ugly you are."
Bugayev pressed his lips together in a grimace of a smile, shook his head slowly, then looked up into Ludwig's eyes. He hated looking up at the man. But at five feet ten, Ludwig was a full three inches taller than he, so he had no choice. There were, in fact, few adults he had not had to look up at in his life. But that did not make it any easier. Certainly no easier than being ugly.
"We cannot all be possessed of your Aryan good looks," he said. "But still we are needed, if for no other purpose than contrast."
Excerpted from Corsican Honor by William Heffernan. Copyright © 1992 Daisychain, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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