The Wolves (John Wells Series #10)

The Wolves (John Wells Series #10)

3.8 5
by Alex Berenson

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The latest thriller from the New York Times–bestselling author of Twelve Days, Alex Berenson.
John Wells has just barely managed to stop an operation designed to drive the United States and Iran into war, but the instigator himself disappeared behind an impenetrable war of security. Now it’s time for him to pay, and Wells has


The latest thriller from the New York Times–bestselling author of Twelve Days, Alex Berenson.
John Wells has just barely managed to stop an operation designed to drive the United States and Iran into war, but the instigator himself disappeared behind an impenetrable war of security. Now it’s time for him to pay, and Wells has made it his personal mission. There are plenty of crosscurrents at work, though. The White House doesn’t want anybody stirring the pot; his old CIA bosses have their own agendas; other countries are starting to sniff around, sensing something unusual. It is when Russia and China enter the mix, however, that the whole affair is set to combust. With alarming speed, Wells is once again on his own . . . and the wolves are closing in.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Edgar-winner Berenson’s exhilarating 10th spy thriller featuring ex-CIA agent John Wells wraps up a trilogy within the series that started with 2014’s The Counterfeit Agent. With the tacit approval of the U.S. president, Wells sets out to kill American billionaire Aaron Duberman, who almost tricked the U.S. into invading Iran in 2015’s Twelve Days. Duberman, a casino magnate with vast holdings in Macao, is now hiding out in his mansion high atop Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak. Wells, deeply undercover and using the latest in surveillance technology as well as gut-level tradecraft, spends weeks trying to find a crack in Duberman’s security armor. It finally comes when the Chinese and the Russians both become intrigued by the prospect of exploiting Duberman’s vulnerability. Typically unflappable in tight situations, Wells uncharacteristically freezes up at one point. Yet when the call of duty summons, Wells rises to the occasion; his emotions may be mixed, but he still puts on a great show for readers. Author tour. Agent: Bob Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Wolves

“Masterful…The Wolves is driven by a terrific and well-executed plot, but where Berenson truly shines is in his explanation of how certain parts of the world work. These would include spycraft and the dark tradeoffs made by governments at the highest and lowest levels. Its conclusion sets up enough potential issues to keep things going for as long as Berenson wants them to. If what has gone before is any indication, let’s hope that he keeps going for a very long time.” –

“As always, Berenson brilliantly blends global politics into an adrenaline-pulsing spy novel.  But, most of all, there is Wells, a stone-cold killer who nevertheless does what we all wish we could do: stand up to the powerful and make them pay.”— Booklist
"[E]xhilarating... when the call of duty summons, Wells rises to the occasion.” — Publishers Weekly

“Berenson’s style is as seductive as his storytelling, and The Wolves has a bite that doesn’t let go from the first page straight through to the last.” -- Providence Journal

Praise for Twelve Days

“Lots of thriller writers know how to work a ticking clock, and lots more come to the genre with some experience in international politics, but few put the two together as effectively as Berenson does in this compelling, globe-trotting time bomb of a novel. Action fans will get all they came for . . . but those looking for genuine insight into the subtleties of the geopolitical chess game will be equally satisfied.” —Booklist (starred review)
“This well-written and fast-moving novel delivers more than a good plot. It illustrated how in the midst of regional chaos, a great power can jump to calamitous conclusions. This one is well worth the thriller enthusiast’s time, which holds true for all the novels Berenson has written to date.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A fast-paced, enthralling fight to the finish . . . the sort of spy thriller that locks you in a fast and ferocious grip and won’t let you go.” —Associated Press
“An extremely suspenseful read that fans will not forget any time soon.” —Suspense Magazine
“All espionage thrillers should be this good. This is a series that you should—must—be reading.” —

Library Journal
In his tenth outing, John Wells has shuttered an operation meant to foment war between Iran and the United States but must still nab its instigator. Then Russia and China get interested. From the No. 1 New York Times best-selling author.
Kirkus Reviews
This adrenaline-filled thriller pits ex-CIA man John Wells against formidable foes. Multibillionaire Aaron Duberman has tried and failed "to fake the United States into a war" with Iran in order to help Israel. Wells stopped the plan and now "has made a mission of destroying Duberman's life." But they are gunning for each other, and neither man will ever be safe while the other is alive. Wells fans know from earlier novels (The Counterfeit Agent, 2014, etc.) that the ex-CIA man is a convert to Islam. Of course, some people will always suspect him for his conversion. In the White House, the president asks Wells to kill Duberman, who believes it's "his right to start a war." Meanwhile, Duberman feels unsafe in his Hong Kong home and hopes to gain political asylum in Russia because he's being kicked out of Israel. Sure, he didn't amass a $30 billion fortune without making some enemies, but it's really best that Wells not be one of them. So the two mortal adversaries are after each other in "not an assassination, or even a sniping, but a slow-motion duel." The billionaire isn't the only threat, however. Arms dealer Mikhail Buvchenko, who "sold death for a living," hates Wells, so of course each wants to kill the other. And crossing everyone's paths is Chinese Gen. Cheung Han, who wants to make China's air force the strongest in the world. The man is a pedophile for whom no girl is too young. Too bad for him he's in the same novel as Wells, who is not much given to mercy in a showdown. Fans of the John Wells series won't be disappointed. They'll agree with his enemies that if Wells isn't Superman, he's super something.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
John Wells Series , #10
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.50(d)

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Read an Excerpt



The President wanted to see John Wells.

The feeling wasn’t mutual.

Wells sat in the emergency room at the Virginia Hospital Center in
Arlington, waiting for a doctor to set the foot he’d broken a day before on another continent, when his phone buzzed. A blocked number.

“Mr. Wells?”

“If you say so.”

“Steve Lipsher at the White House. The President would like to invite you to a meeting in the Oval Office. Four p.m.”

“Shafer gonna be there?” Ellis Shafer, a CIA lifer and Wells’s closest friend. Currently stuck inside a federal jail not five miles from this hospital,
his reward for helping stop a war.

“Just you, the President, and Ms. Green.” Donna Green, the National
Security Advisor.

“Then no. I can’t.”

The silence that followed suggested that no one had ever turned
Lipsher down before.

“Someone will call you,” Lipsher finally said, and hung up.

Wells was tempted to turn off the phone. Five minutes later, it buzzed again. “John. It’s Donna Green. Justice is drafting the release order, but we have to find a judge, and it’s Sunday, remember?”

“You locked him up easy enough.”

“We’ll get it done. Promise.”

“What about the senator? He coming, too?” Wells meant Vinny
Duto, the former CIA director, now senator from Pennsylvania. For the last month, Wells, Shafer, and Duto had secretly worked together against a billionaire casino mogul named Aaron Duberman who’d tried to trick the United States into invading Iran. Duberman’s plan had nearly succeeded. Shown false evidence that Iran wanted to smuggle a nuclear weapon into the United States, the President had set a deadline for Iran to open its borders or face invasion.

But barely twelve hours before, Wells and Duto had delivered proof of Duberman’s plot to Green, forcing the President to back down. In a midnight speech from the Oval Office, he called off the attack.

Wells had expected that the President’s next move would be to punish Duberman for what he’d done. Expected and hoped. Green’s tone, simultaneously wary and pleading, suggested otherwise.

“No Duto,” Green said now. “And that’s not negotiable.”

Wells wasn’t surprised. Green and the President had forced Duto out of the CIA two years before. Now Duto had the upper hand. He could destroy the President simply by revealing the truth about the way Duberman had suckered the United States. Though Duto had already hinted to Wells that he had another agenda. As a price for his silence, he would make the White House help him in the next presidential election. A straight power play, standard operating procedure for Duto, whom Wells imagined kept a shrine to Nixon in the basement of his mansion.

“Fine,” Wells said. If Green didn’t know that Wells disliked Duto almost as much as she did, Wells saw no reason to enlighten her. “I’ll see you at six. Give you time to get Ellis out, me to get my foot set.”

“You’re picking the time for a meeting with the President?”

“Come to an emergency room without hundred-dollar bills taped to your forehead, see how long it takes them to fix you.”

At 5:45 p.m., Wells offered his driver’s license to the White House gate guards and limped toward the West Wing entrance. The worst of the winter was over. Wells wore only jeans and a bright red T-shirt that read Chicago Homicide: Our Day Starts When Your Day Ends. Hardly appropriate for meeting the President. But he couldn’t make himself care.

As Wells passed through the metal detectors, he knew he should feel good. He and Duto and Shafer had kept the United States out of war. Yet Duberman was still in his fortified mansion in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile,
the President’s back-and-forth had damaged the United States already. An hour after the President’s announcement, Iran’s Ayatollah
Khamenei made his own speech. He thanked Allah for “defeating the
Zionist-American crusaders” and promised that “American lies will not stop our mighty Islamic Republic from using its nuclear facilities as it sees fit.” The last four words were new. In the past, Iran had insisted it would develop its nuclear program only for peaceful purposes.

Then Russia and China said they would immediately lift all economic sanctions against Iran. “The United States must learn not to meddle with other nations,” Russia’s Foreign Minister said, in a fingerwagging lecture that was more than slightly ironic, given his own country’s recent adventures in the Ukraine.

The White House confined itself to repeating the points the President had made the night before. We will fully review the evidence that
Iran was trying to smuggle weapons-grade uranium into the United States.
The ultimatum for an invasion no longer serves either side. The Pentagon had already leaked plans to bring home the troops it had just flown to
Turkey and Afghanistan. A New York Post headline summed up the popular view: “Thanks, Mr. President. We just lost a war we didn’t even fight!”

So Wells wasn’t surprised that the mood inside the White House was grim. Though it was Sunday, the West Wing was crowded. Presidential aides trudged along the narrow hallways, staring at their phones for bad news. In the Oval Office anteroom, Wells found Shafer. He was freshly scrubbed and in his best suit, but the bags under his eyes suggested he hadn’t enjoyed his time in jail. Or maybe Wells had just forgotten how old Shafer was. They had first met when Shafer was in his late forties. Wells supposed part of him still saw Shafer that way, thick curly hair and a cynic’s smile. Now Shafer’s hair had become a white horseshoe at the fringes of his skull. His shoulders were bent and narrow from too many years in front of a computer.

He still had the smile, though, the one that warped the edges of his lips. He gave it to Wells. “Seriously? Chicago Homicide? I’m the one who goes for pointless acts of rebellion.”

“Learned it from you, Dad. So don’t I get a hug? Or you got enough man-to-man contact the last few days?” Wells couldn’t talk to anyone else on earth this way.

“I was in there, no way of knowing what was happening, this siren came on like they were evacuating the place, then the intercom, a voice
I’d never heard, We have decided to broadcast the President’s speech tonight
because of its importance. Five words in, I knew you won.”

“We won, Ellis.”

“Lucky us. Now we’re here for our prize.”

The door to the Oval Office opened. “Gentlemen,” Donna Green said.

The President was in his mid-fifties, nearly as tall as Wells was,
though not nearly as muscled. He wore a tailored blue suit and white shirt. No tie. He extended his hand and looked Wells over. His eyes were resigned, like Wells was an unwanted suitor marrying his daughter.
No idea what she sees in you, but I guess we’re stuck with you. Still, he radiated command and power, the arrogance of the man who always had the last word. Beside him, Green was small and frumpy, in a wrinkled blue sweater and a shapeless gray skirt. Like Shafer, she seemed almost aggressively unfashionable.

“Please.” The President indicated the twin yellow couches in the center of the room. “Anyone need a drink?” Nothing formal, just a
friendly chat.

Wells and Shafer shook their heads.

“I could ask about your foot,” the President said to Wells. “Offer to sign that cast. But I have a feeling you’re not in the mood.”

“Let’s just stipulate that we’ve had the small talk,” Shafer said. “You were charming.”

“As always. I want to apologize to you, Mr. Shafer. It goes without saying that we should never have detained you—”

“But I’m guilty. I leaked that information, sir.”

The President’s smile didn’t waver. “You’ve both done a great service.”

“You’re taking this well. Considering Ladbrokes is making book on when you’ll resign.”

“Good for them. I can’t say I was happy when Donna came to me last night. But I’m not angry at you. The CIA failed. I failed. We shouldn’t have needed you. But we did. And for that, I thank you. At some point,
I’d love to hear the story, how you did it, start to finish.”

Wells found himself impressed with the man’s apparent sincerity.
Then he heard Shafer. “Very good, sir.” A parody of an English servant’s accent. “Very, very good.” Veddy veddy guhd. He golf-clapped. Twice.

Until now, Wells hadn’t realized the depth of Shafer’s anger. He wondered how far Shafer would push. How much the President would take.

“You’re so happy, how come you didn’t tell the country the truth?
You lied your ass off last night. Now you’re about to ask us to keep our mouths shut like good little soldiers. After we tell you the story, of course. Guys like you always want to hear what happened. From your bulletproof offices. Why don’t you ask my man here”—Shafer nodded at Wells—“about the nightmares he gets. You think you want the truth,
but you don’t even want the truth’s second cousin, what it’s like out there.”

“Ellis—” Wells said.

“You think because we gave you an enema with the facts last night and you had no choice but to back off your war, everything’s cool,
we’ll keep our mouths shut. And in return we get a secret medal we look at for five minutes before you lock it in a safe and promise that our grandchildren get it fifty years after we’re dead? Shiny and gold?
Heroic Workers of the Revolution? Tractor on it?”

“Mr. Shafer—”

“I’m not finished. Sir. What about Duto? All he wants is your job and you can’t give it to him right now, not unless you’ve secretly rewritten the Constitution. But I bet you promised him you’ll make it happen as best you can. Which would be a disaster, in case you don’t know. But you don’t care. All you want is to stay in here.”

Shafer wiped his forehead. “Now I’m finished.”

A flush climbed the President’s neck like an infection. He reached for the pitcher of water on the table between the couches, poured a glass, drank it down. Wells figured he was buying time to cool off. Yet when he spoke, his voice was even.

“I had that coming. I lied like a rug to the whole country. About
Duberman, all of it. Didn’t see a choice.”

“The truth is always a choice—”

“My turn. I let you talk. Should I have told the world that one man,
a civilian, hired a couple of dozen operatives, almost faked us into starting a war? Would that have made us look better? Everyone’s blaming me. Let ’em. Let them say I was bluffing, the Iranians beat me. I
know this stains my record forever. I’ll take that. Better than the alternative.”

The President rattled off the sentences quickly and with an almost unnatural precision. Wells wondered if he’d slept at all the night before,
if he’d taken a little helper this morning to stay awake.

“You want to know what I want,” the President said. “I am not telling you to keep your mouths shut. Not threatening you. Not implicitly,
explicitly, in any way. You want to call The New York Times, go ahead.
Tell ’em everything. We won’t deny it. We won’t split hairs about what you told us and when. You want the truth out, it’ll come. My only request.
Please tell me in advance, so I can be ready.”

“To resign?”

The President poured himself a fresh glass of water, looked into it as if it might hold the answer. For a man with no leverage, he was making a decent case, Wells thought. Neither threatening nor begging.
Treating them as equals, telling them the choice was theirs.

“Probably how it shakes out.”

The bald, liver-spotted truth. They could make him quit, if they chose. Wells wondered if he could substitute his judgment for that of
320 million Americans. Though if the voters knew the truth, would they keep this man in power?

“But you’d rather we didn’t.” Shafer spoke quietly now.

The President didn’t bother to answer.

Shafer looked at Wells. “I said my piece. You?”

The question meant Shafer hadn’t decided. Otherwise, he would have forced the issue, dragged Wells along. Wells looked at Green.
“You’ve been quiet.”

“I’ve been listening. Like I should have last week.”

“Can he survive? Or is he ruined?”

Green’s eyebrows rose. “You’re asking me to tell you if I think he should quit? In front of him? And you expect an honest answer.”
“I do, too,” the President said.

“And if I say it’s time?”

“Donna, if I’ve lost you, then I’ve lost everyone.”

“All right, then,” Green said to Wells. “The truth? We’re better off with him. As badly as we screwed the pooch, you want to air all this?”
“Suppose we don’t air it. He quits in a couple weeks, gives whatever reason he likes.” Talking about the man like he wasn’t in the room with them.

“That’s worse. And either way, the Veep is not the guy for this job.
He wants to be liked too much. Talks too much.” Green leaned toward
Wells. “I know we made a huge mistake. But in the end, you showed us the proof, we listened. No war. Now give us the chance to fix the damage we’ve done. If we can’t, you can go public anytime.”

Wells had spent the last dozen years making life-and-death decisions,
but he felt unequipped for this one. He looked at the President.
“If I agree—and I’m not saying I am—you flush the CIA. Hebley, all his guys. And Ellis gets to stay at Langley as long as he likes. He’s ninety and drooling, doesn’t matter.”

“Ninety and drooling?” Shafer said.

“Protection for my son, my ex-wife. I ask, the Secret Service watches them. Forever.”

“Not a problem,” the President said.

Wells had the uncomfortable feeling that the President had expected his demands exactly. He decided to shake the tree. “And I’ll need ten million dollars.”

The others, even Shafer, sat up straighter.

“Excuse me?” The President’s voice was tight. Offended. The reaction
Wells had hoped to provoke. “I didn’t think you were in this for the money.”

“I’m not.”

“So this is, what, a tip?”

“Not that you need to know. But half to an animal shelter in New
Hampshire. Long winter up there for strays.” Wells thought of Tonka,
the mutt he’d found years before, in his ex-girlfriend Anne’s keeping now.

“The other five, yours to keep.”

“Now that I’m freelance, I don’t have someone to call at Langley if
I need a plane or a dozen guys with guns. My winning smile only goes so far. I usually find I need to offer cash, too. I had a couple of million from the Saudis, but I spent it. So, a refill.”

The President nodded. Wells sensed he was looking for a reason to say no but couldn’t find one. “Fine. Tell Donna where to send the money and we’ll get to you Monday. Anything else? Your own aircraft carrier?”

“Stay out of the way while I take care of Duberman.”

The President shook his head.

“Then forget it.” Wells stood.


“Please don’t call me John. We don’t know each other that well.”

What he needed to say came to him all at once, a speech brewing for years. “You know what’s always the same? The top guys always skate.
We never touch them. American, Saudi, Russian, whatever, they make their messes and everybody else cleans up. I don’t mean to sound naïve, but I’ve had enough compromises for the greater good. Duberman,
we can take him. Nobody’s protecting him.”

The President nodded. “Somebody spends two hundred million dollars to get you reelected”—as Duberman had done for this President—
“he’s not just a donor. He’s a friend. He’s been in this room. Then he tries to fake the United States into a war? Fake me? You think I don’t want him to pay?”

“Then let me do something about it.”

“Not you. We’re going to do this the right way, even if it takes time. We have to take him out in a way that doesn’t blow back on us—”

“On you—”

“Me and the country, yes. You can have everything else. But not
Duberman. You don’t like it, call the papers.” The President reached into his inside suit pocket, came out with an iPhone. “Secret Service lets me keep it as long as I’m in here and can’t lose it.”

He pressed his thumb to the home button to unlock it, tossed it to
Wells. Then sat back on the sofa, as studiously casual as a poker player who had shoved all his chips into the middle of the table. Over to you.
Call or fold.

This guy. He’d humiliated himself and the country. Yet he still acted like he was in charge. Like sheer force of personality would see him through. The world’s best bluffer.

Wells saw the irony. He complained no one ever held the men in charge accountable. Now he had the chance to make the most powerful man in the world pay. Only he couldn’t do it. He handed the phone back. “You promise me, I stay out of it, you’ll get him.”

“I will do everything possible. Understand, that doesn’t mean blowing up his mansion or his plane with his family on it. No collective punishment. No civilians and especially not his wife and kids.
Him only, and maybe that one bodyguard, the one who’s always with him—”

“Gideon.” Wells wouldn’t forget Gideon Etra’s name soon. Or ever.

“Yes. Gideon’s a legitimate target. So? Will you give me a chance?”

“One condition. Get him out of Israel. Within a week.”

The President shook his head in confusion.

“Tel Aviv’s the hardest place to kill him. The Mossad and Shin Bet will know the second you bring in a team. He can hole up in his mansion.
And he probably figures you won’t come after him if he has his family around. Flush him, make him move, maybe he makes a mistake.
Goes to that island he owns, nice fat target.”

“They won’t kick him out without a good reason,” Green said.
“We’ll have to tell Shalom”—Yitzhak Shalom, the Israeli Prime
Minister— “the whole story.”

Exactly what Wells wanted.

The President and Green whispered briefly.

“Okay,” the President said. “But he winds up in some underground compound in Moscow where we can’t touch him, don’t blame me.”

Wells looked at Shafer. “What do you think, Ellis?”

“I’d like to know what Duto wants.”

“Nothing you wouldn’t expect,” the President said. “Carte blanche in naming the new DCI. Also all my donor files, plus all the oppo research we have on every potential candidate, both parties.”

“You told him no to that?”

“I told him yes to everything.”

“You gave him your dirt.”

“It isn’t that juicy. Politicians are boring these days.”

“What are you going to do when he tells you he wants you to endorse him?”

“Truth is, that would barely move the needle. Even in the primary.
Nobody cares what I think. I’m the past. The past can’t sign bills. The only way I can guarantee he gets the job would be to make the Veep resign, name Duto Veep, then resign myself. That would be a constitutional crisis in a can. I’d rather have it all come out.”

“Plus you’d be out, anyway,” Shafer said.

“Correct. So that’s not happening.”

“Just don’t underestimate him.”

“Lesson learned. So? You on board?”

Shafer tapped Wells on the leg. “Good enough for him, good enough for me.”

“And vice versa,” Wells said. “For a while.”

“How long?” Green said.

“Time limits only cause trouble.” An unsubtle reference to the President’s failed deadline. “Last thing. I don’t want anyone on me. I find out you’re watching, it’s off.”


Then they had nothing else to say. Green gave Wells and Shafer cards without names, just numbers on the front and back. “Cell and home. Call anytime.”

“Let’s go to Shirley’s,” Shafer said, when they were finally off the
White House grounds. A run-down bar in northeast D.C., left over from the District’s bad old days as the Murder Capital. It sold twodollar shots of no-name booze, and its bathroom sent customers to the back alley. The perfect place for a defeat celebration.

“Your wife won’t mind.”

“My wife is just happy I’m out of jail.”

“Drinkers wanted—inquire inside” read the sign taped to Shirley’s front door. Inside it was dirtier than ever. Like going downmarket was a strategy. Wells wanted to summon some nostalgia for the place, irritation for the eight-dollar-a-beer gastropub that would replace it as
Washington’s gentrification spread ever farther east. He couldn’t. It could have been cheap and local and still have had pride.

Wells ordered a Budweiser and didn’t drink it. Shafer ordered whiskey and did. One shot, a second, a third. Shafer wasn’t a big drinker, and the shots added up. A rheumy film blanked his eyes. After his fourth shot, he poked Wells in the side, his finger hardly denting the muscle over Wells’s ribs. “I ever tell you about Orson Nye? My first COS?”
Chief of station. “In Congo? That first posting in Africa, back in the day, I had the worst case of Nile fever.”

“West Nile?”

Shafer smirked. “No, like Potomac fever.” Washington residents used the term to describe the naïve excitement that young arrivals to the city displayed over their proximity to power. That intern’s got Potomac
fever so bad, we could have him research the weather service budget for
a month and he’d love it.

“Hard to imagine.” Wells peeled the label from his Budweiser and sloshed the liquid inside back and forth. Muslims didn’t drink. He was
Muslim. Thus, he didn’t drink. The rules were the rules.

He missed beer, though.

“Oh, but I did. Loved it, all of it. The embassy parties. Chartering a plane so some twenty-year-old could fly me into the jungle for a meeting with the Angolan rebels. The weekly briefings in the secure room.
The safe with the gas masks and the nines and the grenades. All the coms protocols we had to use, back then it wasn’t just some encrypted phone. Our secretaries practically needed Ph.D.s. Checking out the surveillance photos we had of the KGB residents, knowing that they had the same photos of us. Spy versus spy. So glamorous.”

“I’m waiting for the but.”

“But. Took me maybe a year to figure out that everything we did was for show. Mobutu was all that mattered in Congo.” Mobutu Sese
Seko, the country’s president for thirty-two years, until just before his death in 1997. “And all he cared about was money. Carter talked a good game about human rights, but he kept the man’s palms greased. Reagan didn’t even pretend to care.”

Shafer raised his glass and the bartender shuffled over.

“One more?” The guy looked like he belonged in a nursing home,
not a bar.

“At least. Your name’s Ed, right?”

“Depends who’s asking.”

“You’ll never guess where we were today, Ed.”

“Got that right.” The bartender filled Shafer’s glass, swiped a pair of dollar bills from the counter, walked away.

“Gonna miss this place,” Shafer said.

“Makes one of us. Mobutu?”

“Back then, nobody worried about terrorism; the COS and the ambassador threw parties all the time. Open bar, wide open. One night,
I’m drunk, I start spouting to Orson, the people of Congo are starving,
Mobutu’s stealing with both hands. We’re standing by, letting him; why don’t we do something about it? He’s drunk, too, big guy, old-school agency, country-club type. Pretty wife. He puts his hands on my shoulders,
leans in—he smelled great, by the way—”

“I’m not sure what to make of the fact you remember that.”

“I can’t say a man smells good? And he said, ‘Look, you want me to send a cable, time to get rid of MSS? We’ll go to the secure room, do it right now. Just promise me one thing.’ And I said, ‘What?’ And he said,
‘Whoever comes next him will be better. At least Mobutu’s greedy first and a sadist second. At least I can go over to the palace, ask him to lay off the fingernail pulling and leg breaking when it gets too bad.’ ”

Shafer had delivered this monologue in a Jimmy Cagney–esque voice that apparently was meant to be Nye’s. He raised his glass.
“Here’s to you, Orson. You shut me up good. You know what I said back to him? Zip-edee-doo-dah, zip-edee-yay, my oh my—

Wells didn’t like seeing Shafer drunk. “Had to have been guys who were better.”

“And worse. We couldn’t tell ’em apart. Whoever we picked would say the right things until he took over. Then maybe we’d find out the truth. And plenty of broken glass along the way. Plenty plenty. Even after only a year over there, I was sure of that.”

“So Mobutu stayed in power for another twenty years, almost, and destroyed Congo.”

“Sure did. Hasn’t improved since he died, though.”

“How come you never quit, Ellis?”

“I have a good marriage, right?”

“I don’t know much about marriage, but it looks that way.”

“Great family. All the drama I didn’t have in my personal life, it went to the agency. I always thought of the CIA as a woman. A beautiful woman. She cheats, she fights, she lies, but you get addicted to the drama. Of course I only went out with three women in my life, so what do I know?” Shafer downed what was left of shot number five and reached for the bottle in front of Wells. “May I?”

“Please don’t.”

Shafer took a pull, belched. “Nectar of the gods. Though not Allah.”

“You think we did the right thing by letting him skate? The President,
I mean.”

“Heck if I know, John. I know you weren’t ready to do it, and I
wasn’t, either. Let’s see what happens. Donna Green was right about one thing. We can always change our minds.”

Wells was done with this crusty bar. And with Shafer. “Let’s get a cab.”

“One more.”

“No more.” Wells lifted Shafer off the stool. He was light as an empty sack and Wells wondered if he might be sick.

Not that. Not Shafer, too.

“You want to stay over?”

“So you can watch me sleep, report my nightmares to the

“It happened.”

Once. You poured it on thick enough.”

Outside, Wells led Shafer south and west until they found a taxi.
“Get out of this town,” Shafer said, as he slid inside. “It doesn’t agree with you. Sort out your love life. If you can’t do that, at least go see your kid. Give our fearless leader a chance to keep his word.”

“He can’t get away with this.” Wells wasn’t sure whether he was talking about Duberman or the President.

“You’ll know when it’s time. We all will.” Shafer hauled the door shut. He didn’t look back as the cab rolled away.

Meet the Author

This is Alex Berenson’s tenth novel featuring John Wells. As a reporter for The New York Times, Berenson covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq—where he was stationed for three months—to the flooding of New Orleans to the world pharmaceutical industry to the financial crimes of Bernard Madoff. He graduated from Yale University in 1994 with degrees in history and economics, and lives in New York City. The Faithful Spy won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel.

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The Wolves (John Wells Series #10) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have liked previous books about John Wells but not this. Shallow characters. Horrid child abuse scene which was not nevessary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite John Wells book but still a good read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago