Only Kirk McGarvey can save the President's daughter from execution at the hands of terrorists in David Hagberg's breathless thriller novella, 24 Hours. Featuring a special sneak peak at the new McGarvey novel, End Game!
The seventeen-year-old daughter of the widowed President of the United States is kidnapped from Georgetown University outside Washington, DC.
A ransom note mysteriously appears on the president's desk in his private study off the Oval Office. The demand is as simple as it is impossible: The US must immediately begin a ground war in Syria. If the President doesn't comply within 24 hours, his only daughter will be publicly executed.
The terrorists believe that pitting the U.S. against Russian troops in a ground war will allow ISIS to decisively create its Caliphate, from which it would be free to wage war against the entire world. The Middle East would sink into a new and barbarous century.
Former CIA assassin Kirk McGarvey gets the call in the middle of the night for an emergency meeting with the President of the United States. His mission: find the President’s daughter and return her safely to the White House.
The problem: He has only twenty-four hours to do it.
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About the Author
David Hagberg (1947-2019) is a New York Times bestselling author who wrote numerous novels of suspense, including his bestselling thrillers featuring former CIA director Kirk McGarvey, which include Abyss, The Cabal, The Expediter, and Allah’s Scorpion. He earned a nomination for the American Book Award, three nominations for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and three Mystery Scene Best American Mystery awards.
He spent more than thirty years researching and studying US-Soviet relations during the Cold War. Hagberg joined the Air Force out of high school, and during the height of the Cold War, he served as an Air Force cryptographer.
David Hagberg (1947-2019) was a New York Times bestselling author who published numerous novels of suspense, including his bestselling thrillers featuring former CIA director Kirk McGarvey, which include Abyss, The Cabal, The Expediter, and Allah’s Scorpion. He earned a nomination for the American Book Award, three nominations for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award and three Mystery Scene Best American Mystery awards. He spent more than thirty years researching and studying US-Soviet relations during the Cold War. Hagberg joined the Air Force out of high school, and during the height of the Cold War, he served as an Air Force cryptographer.
Read an Excerpt
By David Hagberg
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 David Hagberg
All rights reserved.
The only child of the president of the United States, Dorothy Young — her Secret Service code name Fox — rode in the backseat of the Ford Taurus as it came off Pennsylvania Avenue toward Georgetown University. It was approaching one in the morning, the mid-January evening cold and blustery, and just now a permanent darkness seemed to have settled over the city. All the Christmas lights were down, and traffic was sparse.
But she liked the darkness. She'd been what her friends termed a closet goth, a metalhead, ever since she'd turned fifteen three years ago when her father had announced his bid for the White House.
In public, she was the proper young woman — tall, slender, long dark hair, a pretty if angular face, and expressive, wide eyes. Brought up by a widowed father who doted on her, she'd accompanied him on the campaign travels, and when he'd become president, she went with him on his overseas trips.
She was the all-American girl. Wholesome, scrubbed, always smiling, even small-town cover girl pretty.
But at night, alone with only her Secret Service detail, her black wings spread, and it was almost as if she were a female Jekyll and her Ms. Hyde came out.
Len Coffey was behind the wheel, his partner, Kelley Loring, riding shotgun. Both were ten-year Secret Service veterans with spotless records. The next step after riding herd on Fox would be guarding Falcon, POTUS — the president of the United States — that is, if they didn't fuck up.
Kelley turned in her seat as Dorothy finished putting on her black lipstick. "Anyone new we should know about?"
Dorothy — Dot around her daytime friends — smiled sweetly and shook her head. "Same old, same old." She'd changed her clothes in the backseat, from jeans and a light sweater to black skin-tight slacks and thigh-high boots. She wore a sheer white blouse, her nipples visible, and a long black leather coat, of the kind the Gestapo wore, but unbuttoned.
"You look like shit," Kelley told her.
Dot laughed. "I don't think my dad would be very happy if I told him what you said. Probably can your ass."
Kelley, who had started as a Navy SEAL operator in Afghanistan and Iraq and had gotten her law degree at Stetson in Florida while working undercover as a Tampa cop, was a pleasant, plainspoken person who'd always looked like a teenager. But she had experience. She'd been there, done that. "Fine with me."
Coffey looked at her in the rearview mirror. "Maybe we'll give your dad a few details."
"Your word against mine."
"Your tracker is recorded," Kelley said.
Every Secret Service protectee, including the president and First Family, were equipped with tiny GPS chips implanted in their right shoulders. The range was limited to the Washington area, but when they were out of the city, or even in a foreign country, a satellite could be redirected to home in on them. It was a fact not widely known.
"Okay, guys, truce. I'll behave, Scout's honor."
"Where're we heading?" Kelley asked.
Dot nodded. "But I'll just be a couple of hours, because I already know what he's going to say. One last chance."
Tony Byers was a third-year seminary student who lived in Wolfington Hall, which was the Georgetown University Jesuit residence. Dot had fallen in love the first time she'd laid eyes on him at a party at the student center. At least that's what she'd told her father and her minders. It made him a safe bet for now, or at least until she got over her girlish crush.
"What's he going to think about your outfit?"
"Maybe he'll see a woman and not a kid."
Byers and his immediate circle of friends had been vetted and checked out clean. Exactly how Dot knew it would turn out, and exactly why she'd picked him.
Coffey turned off Canal Road and entered the campus past the parking area where the drive curved around to the rear of the residence hall and parked at the curb. The McDonough Gymnasium was just to the north, this side of the campus dead quiet. None of the students were out and about, though the lights were on in most of the dorm windows. It was a Sunday, and a lot of the kids were cramming.
"Lighten up, guys," Dot said, opening the rear door. "Two hours tops. Maybe a little longer if I can get him to change his major."
"Lotsa luck," Kelley said.
* * *
Dot stopped at the door before entering the dorm and looked back at her minders. She couldn't see Coffey, but Kelley was looking at her like an old mother hen. Or more like a bug under a microscope. Their jobs depended on her. It was a rush.
She smiled and waved and then went in.
Timing was everything, of course. They'd have her tracker up on their iPhone screens, but only if the signal got through.
As she walked down the corridor toward the front door, she shrugged her right arm out of her coat. Taking a Band-Aid and a square of doubled-over tinfoil about the size of a postage stamp out of her pocket, she stopped long enough to tape the foil over the spot above her GPS chip.
"Fuck you and the horse you rode in on," she said.
She pulled her coat back on as she reached the back door and skipped out into the blustery night.
They were picking her up next door at O'Donovan Hall's loading dock. She'd met the tribe, as they called themselves, two weeks ago at Jenner's, a private AC/DC club in the home of a prominent attorney off Dupont Circle. Dot had gone to high school with Julie, the attorney's daughter, who'd turned her on to the goth world but in secret. They'd met on the campaign trail — Julie's father was an early supporter — and the seduction had taken less than ten days.
"Our little fantasy world," Julie had murmured, kissing her nipples. Her name was Venus, and she'd promised to deliver the fantasy to another world.
Tonight, Dot would get her fantasy name in a coke-fueled gang bang.
* * *
Two men stepped out of the darkness around the corner from the dining hall's loading dock. They were dressed in black, and for a moment Dot was sure they were part of Julie's tribe. But she couldn't make out their faces, and that got to her.
She tried to step back, but one of them grabbed her arm, while the other clamped a gloved hand over her mouth and nose. She couldn't scream, and even catching her breath was almost impossible.
She was hustled, half dragged to the opposite side of the building, where a garbage truck was idling, the right side door open.
This wasn't happening.
Not to the daughter of the president of the United States.
A sweet-smelling rag was clamped over her mouth and nose.
One of her captors yanked off her coat, cut open her shoulder, and, with the point of an incredibly sharp knife, pried the GPS chip out. He gave the chip to the other man and said one word, something in what sounded like a foreign language, and the man took off in the darkness.
She was hustled up into the cab of the truck.
Her tongue felt swollen, and she was incredibly sleepy but not unconscious. She was aware of being shoved to the floor ... of her captor climbing in the passenger seat ... and of the truck heading somewhere.
Except for the one word to the man who'd taken off with her chip, she heard no other words.
Her last thought before she lost consciousness was that her father was going to be seriously pissed off, and the media was going to blame him for losing control of his own kid.CHAPTER 2
It was nearly two in the morning when Robert S. Young, president of the United States, was awakened by his personal valet, Mr. Fay, who turned on the bedside lamp, then stepped back a respectful three feet.
"Mr. President, something has come up."
Young had been dreaming about his wife. He was at her bedside four years ago as she lay dying of a cancer in her brain. She had not recognized him; she hadn't even been aware that anyone was with her. But in his dream she was smiling at him, and he took her hand.
"Take care of Dot," she'd said. Her voice was strong, but it was obvious that she knew she only had an hour or so to live.
"She means everything."
The dream had started the first night he'd slept in the White House and had repeated itself every week or so, sometimes, like tonight, with more intensity than usual.
He glanced at the clock, then sat up. "What is it?"
"It's Dorothy — she's missing."
It was the second worst thing Young had ever heard. He threw the covers back and sat up, finding his slippers. Fay helped him with his robe when he was on his feet.
"Mr. Whiteside is here."
Charles Whiteside, the chief of the overnight Secret Service detail, was waiting in the family living room. His tie was loose, but he'd put on his suit coat. If he was agitated, it did not show in his bearing or the stern expression on his broad face.
"What's the situation?" Young demanded, heading out into the corridor and to the stairs.
"She's not run off again, Mr. President, although according to her detail, it was meant to look like it."
Young stopped at the head of the stairs, his gut tightening. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Her tracker went offline for twenty seconds but then came up again."
"Where was this?"
"Georgetown University. She was on her way to see Tony Byers at his dorm. Coffey said they dropped her off in the rear of the building, and almost immediately, her tracker switched off. But they didn't catch it until it suddenly came up, and they took it to be a glitch in the system. That does happen from time to time."
They started downstairs, Young working hard to steady himself.
"Things get tough, double down," Cynthia's advice had been to him when he'd been the junior senator from North Dakota. It had been more or less the same advice his father had given him on their cattle ranch near the Montana border during feeding runs in the middle of one of the frequent blizzards.
"Builds character," his mother had told him just before he'd gone to Washington for the first time. "Where you're heading, you'll need it."
"Campus security and DC Metro cops have been called in, along with the bureau," Whiteside said. "Byers is being interviewed, but he claims that she never showed up, and he had no idea that she was coming to see him."
"Is he telling the truth?"
"We think so. Anyway, the kid's background check came up clean. But there's more."
They'd reached the ground floor, and Young stopped. "What?"
"When her tracker switched on, she was outside the dorm and heading to the east at what could have been a dead run. By the time Coffey and his partner drove around the block, she'd evidently gone into the library."
"The building was closed down for the night, empty except for the janitor working on the second floor. He claims he didn't see anyone. They're still interviewing him. Thing is, the chip shows that she's still in the building."
"Then find her," Young said. "And get her back here."
"We're working on it, Mr. President."
They started down the corridor to the West Wing, when Young had another thought and he pulled up short. "Has she been kidnapped?"
Whiteside was uncomfortable. "We think that's a strong possibility, sir."
* * *
By the time they reached the Oval Office, three other Secret Service officers had taken up positions in the corridor.
Bill Reidel, who was the night-duty watch officer in the White House Situation Room, showed up immediately. He was a husky young man with the build of a football player and the buzz cut of a career marine — neither of which he was. He worked as the resident geek, who loved his job of keeping track of what was going on in the world while the president slept, because he got to know everything in real time.
"She's definitely still in the library, Mr. President. Third floor, near one of the reading alcoves on the north side looking across the lawns to White-Gravenor Hall. But she's not moving, and we can't nail down a position any closer than eight or ten feet."
"Close enough," Young said, his anger rising. "What else?"
"The building has been locked down — no one in or out — until we can get more resources in place," Whiteside said. "There's no telling her situation. We're moving in with care."
The phone on the president's desk chimed; it was his chief of staff, Joseph Canterbury. "I'm on my way, but we're going to have to keep this under wraps at least through the first A.M. news cycles."
"She might have been kidnapped," Young said.
"If that were the case, she'd be long gone by now. The word I'm getting is that she's holed up somewhere in the library on campus."
"Her tracker is," Young said, and he had no earthly idea why he had said such a thing, except that he was worried sick.
"She's there," Canterbury said. "And if she has been kidnapped, they want us to know exactly where she is. Don't send in the troops with guns blazing just yet."
"Not until we find out what the fuck they want."
Alan Bernstein, chief of the presidential detail, called from his cell phone. "I just got word," he said. "I'm twenty minutes out, but our assets are moving in. All of them."
"With care," Young said.
"We'll get her back, Mr. President, even if she's just out on a lark."
Young had to smile despite the situation. "I hope that's all."
The president put the phone down. Reidel was back at his post next to the Situation Room, and only his Secret Service chief of the overnight detail was with him. But the troops were gathering here at the White House and at the university campus, which would be put on a tough lockdown until the president's daughter was found.
Dead or alive, the unbidden thought came to him.
He gave Whiteside a bleak look and then walked into his private study, an almost overwhelming urge to be alone coming over him like a slow-moving tsunami. Leaning against his desk, he lowered his head and was as close to weeping as he'd ever come since Cynthia had died.
Their baby girl had changed in the past couple of years — in part, he supposed, because of living inside the bubble of the presidency, where any sort or a normal life was impossible. She had rebelled, and with any luck, tonight would be just another example. In secret, she was being called a goth head, or metalhead, or whatever the hell that actually meant. The president's daughter.
A plain white business envelope had been placed on his desk. It hadn't been there when he'd gone upstairs two and a half hours ago.
There were no markings, no address, nothing to indicate that it was something for the president's eyes only.
It contained one typewritten page on plain paper, no letterhead, no return address. Nor was it signed.
Only five lines of text.
MIDNIGHT EDT. WE HAVE YOUR DAUGHTER. IF YOU WISH HER RETURNED ALIVE, THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST DO. YOU HAVE TWENTY-FOUR HOURS.
The last sentence made absolutely no sense.CHAPTER 3
It was a night for dreaming. Kirk McGarvey, one time the youngest director of the CIA, and for the past several years a troubleshooter for the CIA, was asleep alone in his Georgetown apartment.
Pete Boylan, who had come into McGarvey's life after assassins bent on killing him had murdered his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, had flown out to LA to visit her brother, who had relapsed from his drug treatment program and was in serious condition.
"Right now, he needs me more than you do," she'd told him this morning.
"I'll come with you."
"Nothing for you to do except sit around hospital waiting rooms. Shack up with Otto and Louise while I'm gone. Take your granddaughter to the zoo or something. She won't be a little girl forever, you know."
Pete had been a chief interrogator for the Company until she'd helped McGarvey on a number of assignments and was high on a very short list of people who were truly close to him. He was in love with her, or at least he thought so. But he was also afraid for her safety. Every woman in his life — his wife, Katy, his daughter, Liz, and several others who had gotten close to him — had lost her life because of what he did, of who he was.
Otto Rencke, the CIA's resident computer genius, had been an old friend — twenty years at least — and his wife, Louise, who'd been a satellite and photo analysis senior officer for the National Security Agency, were practically family.
When Liz had been killed, she'd left behind her daughter, Audrey Rose, a precocious child — McGarvey's granddaughter — whom Otto and Louise had adopted and taken as their own without question, just with a totally unconditional love.
This night, alone for the first time in a couple of months, McGarvey was having the same nightmare as always. Someone was coming. Someone dark, lurking around some corner, hiding in the shadows, was ready to pounce. No matter how fast he tried to run, he couldn't get away. But when he turned around to face the danger, someone had stepped into the line of fire. It was a woman.
Nothing bad happened every time he had the dream, but just about every time something bad did happen, he'd had the dream first. Or at least he thought he had.
He got out of bed and padded into the bathroom, where he peed and splashed some water on his face, craggy now this early morning, his eyes grayish green as they usually were when he was about to go into hyperdrive when he became almost preternaturally aware of his surroundings.
Excerpted from 24 Hours by David Hagberg. Copyright © 2016 David Hagberg. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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