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"The accessorized holster's nice, too."
"Well ... they're FBI issue."
"No kidding. Ever shoot anybody with it?"
"Not yet." She gave me a brief glance. "You might be my first."
From her accent she was from the Midwest, Ohio, someplace like that. From her tone and demeanor, she meant it. Neither she nor the gentlemen in the front smiled, offered hands, or appeared in any way pleased to have me as a passenger.
So to break the ice, I said, "I'm Sean Drummond."
She said, "Keep quiet."
"Nice morning, isn't it?"
She gave me an annoyed look and stared out the window.
"Where are we going?" I asked her.
"I'm trying to think. Shut up."
"That's not what I asked."
"Well ... you're not paying attention to the answer you're getting."
We were in the backseat of an unmarked black sedan with two plainclothes types in front. I said, "You guys know where we're going?"
The one in the passenger seat glanced sideways at his partner. "Yeah."
As I mentioned, I'm Sean Drummond, an Army major and a JAG attorney, and for all I knew these three were goombahsand we were on our way to the nearest marsh for a quick whack. Well, probably not-though I think the lady was tempted. We had just departed the front gate of CIA headquarters and turned right onto Dolley Madison, headed west toward McLean. No lights or sirens were turned on, but the driver kicked it up to about seventy, which I regarded as interesting fact number one.
I knew the lady's name was Jennifer Margold; I knew she was a special agent from the D.C. Metro Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and probably she wouldn't be in the backseat of this car were she not good at something. Early to mid-thirties, shoulder-length coppery hair, slender, and as I mentioned, attractive-not beautiful, more like pretty in an interesting way.
She looked bright, and wore a dark pantsuit with practical pumps, light on the makeup, and heavy on the bitchiness, if you ask me. Also, for fieldwork Fibbies prefer what she was not wearing: bulletproof vests, blue windbreakers, and baseball caps. I regarded this as interesting fact number two. Her eyes, incidentally, were a sort of frosted blue, like chilled cobalt.
I should also mention that I wasn't attired in a uniform or anything, but a blue serge suit, which was both stylish and appropriate, as my current assignment had nothing to do with the Army or law. Actually, I was new to this job. In fact, I wasn't really sure what my job was. I said to the driver, "I'd really appreciate it if you'd pull over at the nearest Starbucks."
I said, "Come on, guy. I'll buy. You all look like mocha latte types."
Agent Margold replied, "I told you, shut up."
Anyway, I was on loan-or maybe banished-to something innocuously titled the Office of Special Projects, part of the Central Intelligence Agency, though I wasn't working at the Langley headquarters but somewhere called an offsite-a nondescript large red-brick warehouse in Crystal City with a sign over the entrance that read "Ferguson Home Security Electronics."
You'd think that would be enough of a front, but the Agency has a classified budget, which is an invitation for extravagant idiocy. Three or four red delivery vans were parked out front, and there were actually a few guys whose job it was to drive them around all day, and even more guys who were supposed to pop in and out and pose like customers. There was even a receptionist out front named Lila to handle the occasional rube who dropped in looking for a home alarm or something. But she's okay. She's very friendly. Also, she's really pretty.
The CIA is really into this smoke-and-mirrors stuff. I mean, how much simpler would it be to just slap up a sign that read "VD Clinic"? No more vans and no more phony customers, and for sure there'd be no casual foot traffic. I actually submitted this recommendation on my second day on the job. But I already knew the response. These people have big-time image issues. For an agency charged with national security, they're really insecure.
Anyway, after only a mile or so we turned left onto a street called Ballantrae Farm Drive, a sort of suburban block filled with Pepsident monstrosities. McLean, if you're interested, is one of Washington's more elite suburbs, with no shortage of posh enclaves for the rich and privileged. Still, I could picture a Realtor taking a prospective couple to this block saying something like, "But since you said money is no object, I wanted to be sure you saw this lovely neighborhood."
We continued our drive down the street and eventually we reached a cul-de-sac, and it wasn't hard to guess that the big shack with the three Crown Vics at the curb was our destination. Two guys in suits stood guard at the front entrance, and they weren't holding welcome signs.
You saw that house and you knew-all red brick with tall, thick Corinthian stone columns in front, slate-roofed, and if I had to estimate, about fifteen thousand square feet of interior grandiosity and pomposity, pool out back, cabana, and all that.
We climbed out of the backseat, and one of the guys in suits promptly approached. He seemed to know Special Agent Margold, because he said, "Everybody's inside, Jennie. It's ugly. Director's still ten minutes out." He handed her a clipboard and she signed in, name, time, date, whatever.
Presumably he was referring to Mark Townsend, the head of the Federal Bureau, which told you these clowns were also Fibbies. Not that I have anything against the FBI. I actually admire what they do and how well they do it. It's how they do it. A lot of FBI types are lawyers and accountants, and when you turn them into law enforcement agents you get this weird culture and this sort of hybrid personality, or maybe a hyphenated personality. They're so insufferable, they better be good.
Also, jurisdiction's always a touchy issue with law enforcement types. Aside from the aforementioned government sedans and federal agents, I saw no ambulances, no ME wagon, no forensics van, nor had anybody strung up any yellow crime scene tape. This was interesting fact number three.
Interesting fact number four was the absence of uniformed or local cops, the usual first responders. So whatever occurred inside that house was being kept strictly federal, a synonym for serious, and was being handled low-key, which often rhymes with messy, or, more often, embarrassing.
Margold handed the clipboard back to the guy, who asked me, "Who're you?"
He did not respond. I asked, "You the termite guy?"
He smiled tightly. "I'd like to see your ID before you sign in."
Actually, when I was pulled out of the shower by a 7:09 A.M. phone call from my boss, the only instructions she could offer over an open line were to be sure not to sign the crime log, and nobody but Agent Margold was authorized to know my true identity. She also mentioned that to preserve my anonymity, I should curb my tart tongue and watch my manners, whatever that means.
In my few short weeks with these clandestine types, the one thing I'd learned is that what is said rarely is all that is meant. You have to read between the lines. Don't sign in means we don't want you getting subpoenaed later. Don't identify yourself means it would be inconvenient to have a witness on the stand recalling your presence. So I was being neither coy nor rude when I told him, "Seriously, if I show you my ID I'll have to kill you."
He said, "Seriously ... if you don't, I might kill you."
Agent Margold stepped in and informed the guy, "He's authorized. I'll keep an eye on him."
"He has to sign in, Jennie."
"Trust me, he doesn't. If you get backlash, refer it to me."
She stared him down with those icy blue eyes, and reluctantly he allowed us to pass. Whatever happened inside this house this fine spring morning had these people so tightassed it would take a month of Metamucil to clear their pipes. But we progressed together, she and I, up the driveway and then along a walkway to the grand front entrance. She paused at the doorway, slipped white paper booties over her shoes, slapped latex gloves on her hands, and, speaking out the side of her mouth, said to me, "It's apparent that you have authority issues. If I get the slightest problem from you, Drummond, I'll slap your ass in handcuffs and have you carted out." She handed shoe covers and gloves to me and added, "Stay beside me, keep your smartassed mouth shut, and don't touch a thing. You're here to observe, period."
Goodness. I tucked my tail between my legs and replied, "You're right. I'm glad you brought this to my attention, and I'm truly sorry. You have my word, I'll be more responsive, helpful, and obedient."
Actually, I didn't say that. I slipped on my booties and gloves and asked, "You going in first?"
And without further ado, we entered a cavernous foyer with white marble floors and, to the left, a sweeping curved stairway, and on the ceiling above, a massive crystal chandelier. As I was here to observe, period, I also took note of the oriental chest against the far wall, the handwoven Chinese rug centered neatly in the foyer, and the corpse about five feet from the door.
The corpse-a female, late twenties, and in admirable physical shape, ignoring her present condition. She was dressed in a nice navy blue suit with a plain jacket and short skirt and was lying on her back, hands clutched at her throat with her knees bent and her legs spread wide apart, so you could see her pink undies; though modesty was no longer a concern for her. Both the position of her hands and the halo of blood around her head suggested she'd been shot in the throat. The blood looked dark, indicating an artery had been nicked, and the fact that it was only partially dry that she'd gotten it around the time I should've been having my morning joe.
She looked like a broken rag doll that had gotten caught in a big wind and tossed on her butt. But that's not what happened-she'd taken a frontal shot from a slug with enough throw weight to fling her five feet through the air.
I don't think Ms. Margold missed the corpse, though she ignored it and walked on. Also, she had either been in this house before or had been briefed on the layout, because she led me straight through a large living room and directly to the dining room, and more corpses.
More precisely, an elderly man and woman were seated at each end of the dining table, slumped forward, facedown in the soup-or to be completely precise, their faces were in soup bowls, filled with Cheerios for him and Frosted Flakes for her.
The man was about mid-sixties, white-haired, attired in a gray pinstriped light wool business suit, white shirt, and shiny black tasseled loafers. An expensive black leather briefcase was parked beside his left foot, like he was about to leave for work, though obviously that didn't pan out. The woman was about his age, red-haired, and she wore pink pajamas under a blue silk dressing gown, as if she expected to be eating in front of strangers, though from the scene at the table, probably not the strangers who dropped by.
Agent Margold moved directly to the male victim's body, felt his neck very briefly, and backed off. I noticed, to our right, nearly in the corner, two agents leaning against the wall who did not seem to be doing much of anything. But maybe they weren't supposed to. She suggested to them, "What ... maybe two hours?"
The heavier one nodded. "An ME's on the way. But yeah ... when we arrived thirty minutes ago, he was still real warm. Time of death between six and seven o'clock. Closer to six, I think."
She walked around and examined the room a moment. The table was long and thick, custom-made obviously, able to seat about fourteen. The room itself was expansive and expensively furnished, and the lady of the house was a finicky housekeeper and possessed good decorating taste, or she hired good help. Fresh bouquets of flowers rested on the fireplace mantel and a large centerpiece sat on the middle of the table, suggesting, I thought, that she and the hubby might've entertained recently.
But maybe they weren't husband and wife. You have to be careful about assumptions at a murder scene. The dead guy could be her lover, her tax accountant, or her killer. Also, the two gents by the wall kept glancing at the male corpse and largely ignored the woman. As a general rule, all corpses are relevant to a crime, and perhaps not in life but in death, all bodies become equal. Yet in most multiple murders, one corpse is the main event and the rest are simply victims of the three Ws-wrong place, wrong time, wrong company. I wondered if the young lady in the foyer was their daughter.
We all contemplated the corpses for a moment. Margold asked, "Who was the first responder?"
Again the heavier guy responded, "Danny Cavuso. Works out of the Tysons Corner cell. Because of proximity to the residence, the Tysons office is on standby for problems. A telephonic check was supposed to be made every morning when Hawk left for work. When no call came by six-thirty, a call was made here. No answer. So Cavuso was dispatched."
"Andy Warshuski from his office was his backup. The front door was unlocked. They swept the house and grounds, and called in the incident. When we arrived, they left together."
"So they're the only two who departed the site?"
"Except the killers."
"Keep it that way. Complete quarantine. Nobody departs unless I say so."
He replied, "Already got that word," and she returned to her visual inspection, leaving me to ponder interesting fact number five. Perhaps she was worried about forensics getting disqualifying foot- and fingerprints from everybody who entered the house. Or perhaps I was missing something important.
Anyway, lawyers are not forensic experts, but eight years of criminal law does afford a few skills and insights. The right side of the man's head had a small entry hole-dead center in the temple-and though I couldn't yet observe an exit wound, the gray-and-red mess splattered on the expensive wallpaper suggested the bullet had passed through cleanly. I moved around a bit, formed a mental image of the male victim alive and seated upright. The shot had been fired flat and level, I decided, as if the shooter positioned the gun right next to the guy's temple, and boom. But more likely the killer had taken the shooter's crouch and fired from a distance, which accounted for the level trajectory. The lady of the house had taken her bullet in the right rear quadrant of her neck. From the debris splattered messily across the near side of the table, the shooter had stood slightly to her right rear with the weapon sighted slightly downward. I made a mental note to think about that.
Excerpted from The President's Assassin by Brian Haig Copyright © 2006 by Brian Haig. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 9, 2008
In exile to the CIA's Office of Special Projects, Army JAG Major Sean Drummond is escorted by FBI Agent Jennifer Margold to a Virginia crime scene where six corpses are located. Considering that the house is impenetrable with cameras and radar detectors outside and agents inside, no one knows how the killer breached the premises. That is no one until Sean explains the most likely method that led to the assassination of the White House Chief of Staff Terry Belknap, his wife, and their four secret service bodyguards. The message left behind is ¿¿ the president will be history in the next two days¿. --- Though he wants out because he knows what will hit the bureaucratic fan, Sean wonders if the mass murders are linked to the $100 million bounty offered for killing the president? Soon a Supreme Court Justice and the Republican National Committee chairman are killed too. Drummond concludes that a mole inside the inner circle of security is giving away information. He must remove the mole before he can stop the killing machine, but has only one day left. --- In his fifth appearance, Drummond is at his wisecracking best because he has the perfect straight man (make that woman) the tight Margold as his sidekick. Sean is stupendous as he cannot sit idly quiet even when it is his in his best interests while working for the civilians. The story line is terrific, perhaps the best of a strong series as Brian Haig provides a fabulous political investigative thriller that grips the audience from the moment Sean opens his mouth in the affluent Virginia suburbs and never slows down until he gets the final word in.--- Harriet Klausner
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Posted April 12, 2013
Unlike at least one reviewer, I didn't think this story was at all predictable and I'm an avid crime reader. I loved Sean Drummond as a character who is very bright (but plays it down), witty and sarcastic. Brian Haig is a wonderful writter who handles dialogue well and doesn't waste the reader's time with a lot of superfulous descriptions and fuff. I plan to read more of his novels. Highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 10, 2012
Posted October 3, 2011
Brian Haig must have spent no small amount of time concocting the plot for this novel. It's a pretty impressive work, which means I could not have done it. Yet there is a little too much cutesiness in the main character, Sean Drummond. But I liked the novel a lot. For the reader who wants the author to unite Sean and Jenny in another novel, I wonder how that might happen given the way the book goes, but you'd have to read all of it to know that. So, if you are like me and going through Haig's novels to find another one to read, take my word for it, this one is worth reading.
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Posted February 16, 2011
Posted January 15, 2011
Posted July 5, 2010
This is the first book that I have read in this series. But I'm hooked. I want to go back now and read all the books that I missed.
Normally when you read a book this deep in a series the writing, plot and characters become flat. Not so with this book. From the beginning I became hooked on the character and his wiseass attitude and banter. The author does an excellent job of tying in prior works and character updates.
I won't reveal any of the plot line, but will only say that if you like a book that's hard to put down and is full of intrigue and twists then you'll love this one. Highly recommended.
Posted April 2, 2008
Great book, non-stop thriller. I came to love Jenny Margold - she and Sean were terrific together. Brian left a way way to bring them together again, and I hope he does. It would be a fascinating read!! This book was wonderful - if you love action thrillers that make you exercise all your gray matter to predict what's next, this is for you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 16, 2007
This was a very good book. The conclusion was a little too predictable to garner '5 Stars' but it was still a very interesting story that made me want to keep reading. I really like Sean Drummond and look forward to reading the next book with him as the main character.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 9, 2007
Posted August 4, 2006
When the White House Chief Of Staff and his wife were found slumped over their breakfast bowls, army lawyer Sean Drummond finds himself paired with the desirable Secret Agent Jennie Margold to solve the murders. A note with a bounty placed on the President¿s head gets thrown in to spark one of the most notorious crimes that further claims the lives of a White House Spokesperson, a Justice of the Peace and the wife of the Director of the FBI ¿ messages to the FBI and CIA that the important administrators of Washington DC were just starters in the menu ¿ and the only way to stop it is if a ransom is paid. Although the perpetrators seem to be one step ahead (indications that an insider is leaking some confidential information), sharp eyed and tar tongued Drummond rises to the occasion to combat the escalating body counts and beat them at their own game. Full of twists and suspense, author Brian Haig offers a nail biting novel with insightful peeks into the workings of a high profile investigation and keen psychological observations into the minds of seemingly normal people with inner demons. The ending holds some grand surprises because just when readers are about to breathe a sigh of relief for their hero, Drummond finds himself unnerved by startling revelations that just might cause him. The President¿s Assassin has superb characterization, terrific dialogue, mordant humor and great plotting. Read this and you will want to grab more of Haig¿s work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2006
This was my first foray into reading Brian Haig's work. I thought the story with rich with intrigue and kept me wanting more all the way to the end. I can't wait for the next Sean Drummnd Book because I am running out of the old ones.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2006
This is one of the best thrillers ever written. I love Brian Haig's sense of humor! Brian Haig writes with the best of them: Stephen White, Robert Crais, Harlan Coban, and Lee Child.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 3, 2005
My first book by Haig and not my last. More twists than a pretzel factory and Sean is a super sleuth. Wise-cracking and smart. The ending is priceless and reinforces that you hate having finished the book. Headed to the bookstore to buy another one and so should you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 15, 2005
Posted March 19, 2005
Posted March 16, 2005
I fully realize that as a person who uses English as a second language I'm in a poor position to criticize someone else¿s style, but this book has really been poorly written. Dialogs are really unnatural (I recall a conversation about one of victims immediately after his deaths which was just too witty to be real) and some words are used too often. There are pages where the author starts using some expression and simply cannot quit it: in reality, actually, incidentally are a few examples. They pop up every other sentence. I am sticking to the book only because of the excellent narration by Scott Brick (this refers to the audio version).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2005
By now, Brian Haig should have run out of fresh story ideas for his smart-mouthed JAG officer, Sean Drummond. At the very least, Drummond should have been shot several times purely for his ability to rub the bad guy the wrong way, especially with his mouth. Haig has created the penultimate thiller concept this time - a terrorist who wants to kill the president, and the good guys who apparently can't stop him. Drummond's character is as brash as ever, and at approximately one new book a year, I haven't tired of his voice. Tight plots with lots of twists and turns, but not so much as to lose the reader's interest. Thankfully, Brian Haig is well into his next manuscript because we'll get to hear from him again. Excellent reading, as with the previous four Haig novels. One small negative ... the book is not long enough. I could have used 600-700 pages.
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Posted November 24, 2004
Sean Drummond has pretty much done and seen it all. From the killing fields of Bosnia, to the political complexities of 21st century Korea and post-Soviet Russia, to the deadly battelfield of corporate warfare, nothing has prepared him for the carnage that kicks off The President's Assassin. The novel opens upon the brutal scene of the President's chief of staff having been killed in his own home,along with the note that tells official Washington that the President will be dead within 72 hours if a huge ransom isn't paid. Teamed with a crackerjack female FBI criminal profiler, Drummond has to discover who is behind the threat and why before its too late. As always, it is a pleasure to join the sharp-eyed and tart-tongued Drummond as he battles both Washington bureaucracy and an escalating body count to try and find a team of extraordinarily professional killers who always seem to be a step ahead, before they can reach their ultimate target. Haig skillfully ratchets up the suspense with every chapter and the revelation of the motive behind the plot is both unexpected and amply worth the trip. All in all, Haig has hit a home run with this one!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 8, 2013
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