Cold Frame: A Novel

Cold Frame: A Novel

by P. T. Deutermann

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The downtown area of today's Washington, D.C., has become an armed camp. Men with assault rifles crouch on top of monuments and buildings. Anti-missile sites bristle on the White House roof. Meter maids carry Glocks and tactical radios, all in the name of federal CT: counterterrorism.
In Cold Frame, the dramatic new thriller by P. T. Deutermann, a secret committee of government and civilian officials puts names on the Kill List, which targets overseas threats to America for termination. When a senior bureaucrat who is part of the Kill List process dies in Washington under mysterious circumstances that include a beautiful woman, a glass of wine, and a bouquet of flowers, Metro detective Av Smith is tasked to investigate. Smith and his fellow detectives soon find themselves besieged by a hornet's nest of intrigue and deception. With the aid of an FBI agent and a reclusive scientist who nurtures unusual interests, Av digs deeper into the mystery---only to become the target of a plan that reaches into the highest levels of the federal government, and far exceeds the mission of the Kill List itself.
Set in contemporary Washington, D.C., amidst the Byzantine counterterrorism bureaucracy, Cold Frame is a compelling thriller by masterful novelist P. T. Deutermann, whose insider knowledge of how the military, federal, and local intelligence agencies work---or don't---illuminates the dark world of Washington's War on Terror.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466863927
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/14/2015
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 182,519
File size: 841 KB

About the Author

P. T. DEUTERMANN is the author of seventeen previous novels, including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.
P. T. DEUTERMANN is the author of many previous novels including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

Cold Frame

By P. T. Deutermann

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 P. T. Deutermann
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6392-7


Francis X. McGavin, principal deputy undersecretary for interagency coordination in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrived at a small French restaurant on Connecticut Avenue. He was there to have lunch with the woman he was hoping to make his newest conquest. McGavin was in his mid-fifties, conservatively suited if a little on the rotund side, with the self-satisfied expression of an upper-level bureaucrat who is comfortably important but not so senior as to ever be at risk to any career-killing excursions in the world of public policy. He was married, but with no children. His wife, a Georgetown heiress eight years his senior, dismissed his peccadilloes, considering his relentless pursuit of yet another younger woman as a blank check to lead her life precisely as she wanted. They were actually pretty good friends and sometimes even discussed his latest adventures over morning coffee. For McGavin, his philandering ways were just a pleasant game. For her, they were a great relief.

McGavin drove a four-door Jaguar that he parked carefully in front of the bistro, arranging the spacing so that no oafish cabbie could get close enough to the car to mar its gleaming finish. He was not surprised to find a parking place so close — little things like that often worked out for him.

His latest quarry — it was a hunt, after all — was a thirty-something beauty with flashy legs who supposedly worked in federal law enforcement, although precisely where was still a little vague. He didn't care — he wasn't interested in her career. He'd met her while serving on one of those hush-hush government committees that seemed to be proliferating like weeds around town. They'd met for lunch twice after that, once in a group and then by themselves, but he hoped that today's date was more in the way of an assignation. She'd given him all the right signals, even to the point of casually mentioning that her apartment was on Connecticut Avenue. She'd been unspecific about the where, but, in his mind, there could only be one reason for her to have said that. He'd picked the Bistro Nord because it was small, discreet, and not on the list of places where deputy undersecretaries usually went for lunch. He'd prepaid with his Amex card so that, if things went well, there'd be no interruptions to the smooth flow of an imminent seduction.

The Bistro Nord was a dimly lit, twelve-table affair, with a small mirrored bar in one corner and batwing doors leading into a somewhat noisy kitchen. There were tall potted plants positioned strategically to give diners even more privacy. The maître d'-cum-bartender was reciting the day's lunch menu to a four-top in the middle of the room as McGavin came through the door. The maître d' concluded his spiel and approached.

"I'm meeting Ellen Whiting?" McGavin asked.

"Oui, m'sieu." He pointed to the far corner, and there she was, with those amazing legs canted diagonally out from under the tablecloth. She gave him a sly smile when he realized he'd been caught staring. Well, hell, he thought: wear a skirt like that, even a priest is going to stare. He smiled back, hoping it made him look younger, sucked in his gut, and threaded his way through the tables and into the chair opposite. She had a head start on him with a glass of white. He caught the maître d's eye and signaled he'd have the same.

At that moment, a flower vendor stepped into the restaurant. He was an odd-looking man with a white streak running through his hair from front to back. He nodded to the maître d', who frowned, as if he didn't recognize him. He began making his way around the tables, concentrating on tables for two. His flowers were wrapped in layers of green tissue paper cones, just the right size for a lunch table. When he approached their table, McGavin gave a quiet groan and started to wave him away, but Ellen smiled at the man, who then whipped out a bunch of flowers and offered it to her.

"Perfect," she said, peering into the cone of blossoms. She flashed a twenty and the deal was done before McGavin could object. The maître d' appeared magically with a vase and McGavin's glass of wine.

"There," Ellen said. "What do you think of that, Mister Very Important Principal Deputy Under-whazzit?"

"Classy," McGavin replied. "I like surprises like that."

"Try the wine," she said. "It's a white burgundy. We may need a bottle."

He sampled the wine and nodded. "Indeed we will," he said. "That's very good; you know your way around. Wines."

He gave her a look that said there were lots of ways that comment could be interpreted. She gave it right back to him, arching a little in her chair to accentuate the rest of her charms. He took another sip. She put down her glass and said she'd be right back. She then got up, being a little careless with that silky skirt, and headed for the ladies'. He loved the way her dense, blond hair swung from side to side in time with her hips. It had to be a hairpiece — she'd been a brunette before — but the effect was exciting. He made a small noise in his throat and had another sip of wine. The maître d', a roly-poly and entirely bald Frenchman, smirked when he heard that small noise and gave him a look. McGavin grinned back at him, one worldly wise man to another, fully aware that his high hopes were evident. He remembered to ask the maître d' to bring the bottle. Then he leaned forward and inhaled an appreciative draft of the exotic scent rising from the fresh flowers. He sat back in his chair, reached for his wine glass again, then stopped and frowned.

The maître d', returning with the bottle of burgundy and two small menus, was surprised by that frown. The flowers were beautiful, a small spray of vibrant color against the starched white tablecloth. The lady had overpaid, of course, but still. He stepped aside as the bistro's sole waiter, a young man dressed in black pants and shirt covered by a white apron, backed out of the batwing doors and headed for one of the tables, bearing a tray of soup in one palm.

"M'sieu?" the maître d' said.

"Cold," McGavin declared.

The maître d' was confused. It was a lovely fall day outside, not cold, not too warm, just right. The restaurant was most definitely not cold.

"Cold, m'sieu? What is cold?"

"I am," McGavin said. "My wegs are cold."

The maître d' blinked. Wegs?

McGavin suddenly looked like he was going to cry. His eyes began blinking and his lower lip was coming out like a child's. The maître d' froze, alarmed at the transformation taking place in this man's face. The flower man, who'd been working a nearby table, stopped his sales pitch and turned around.

"'Owld," McGavin croaked, but now his lips were twisting into a weird grimace. The right side of his face began to droop and he leaned against the table for support. His eyes were abnormally bright — and, to the maître d's horror, suddenly very red. He appeared to be trying to say something, but he couldn't get it out. He made a strangling noise in his throat and began clawing at the tablecloth.

The other customers in the restaurant were staring now, aware that something serious was happening. The maître d' reached to support McGavin but he was already tilting to his right and then toppling over in slow motion like a tree, falling sideways out of his chair and collapsing in a disheveled heap on the floor, pulling the tablecloth and everything on it down on top of him in a clatter of silverware and breaking glasses. The waiter hastily abandoned his tray and rushed over. Both the maître d' and the waiter got down to prop McGavin up; he was still breathing, but only barely, and his face was now solidifying into a lopsided rictus of surprise. Then his eyes lost focus and he went very still.

The maître d' looked over at his waiter, who was slowly shaking his head. They both stood up. This man was clearly beyond help. The other diners were looking at one another, as if asking, What do we do? Do we finish our lunch? Should we leave now? Oh. My. God. That man is dead. One man announced to the dining room that he was calling 911.

The maître d' looked around, not sure of what to do next. Then he remembered the woman.

Where was the mademoiselle? The one with the shiny legs. Where did she go? Mon Dieu, does she know what has just happened? The chef was peering out over the batwing doors, his red face glistening with perspiration. The flower man approached, knelt down, and began to pick up the spilled blooms from the floor, putting them gently back into his basket and then covering them up with a napkin as if they were the real casualties. The maître d' felt for a pulse in McGavin's throat but found nothing. He picked up one of the folded napkins, unfolded it, and draped it across McGavin's face. Some of the other customers gasped when they saw that. Others were beginning to back out of their chairs, their appetites thoroughly spoiled.

Then strobe lights began flashing through the curtained front windows. Blue ones for the police, white and red for the ambulance. The maître d' hurried to the front door. A moment later, a uniformed District policeman led two EMTs into the restaurant, muttering something incomprehensible into his shoulder mike. The uniformed medics dropped to their knees beside McGavin, already deploying equipment. One removed the cloth napkin and felt for a pulse, while the other spread the defibrillator leads. They exchanged a look that told the tale: this was probably hopeless. This guy was gone.

"Okay, everybody," the Metro cop announced in a bored voice. "I'm gonna need statements."


Detective Sergeant Ken Smith, known as Av Smith in the Metro PD, had just managed to upset a paper cup of coffee onto his desk. He was trying to get it cleaned up before anyone else in the office noticed. He'd emptied an entire box of Kleenex onto his desktop to sop up the small lake. He held his hands over the mess, waiting for the lake to stop spreading.

"Smooth move, Ex-Lax," Detective Sergeant Howie Wallace said from the adjacent cubicle. "When you gonna get a mug like the rest of us?"

"I'm not going to be here that long, partner," Av said. The lake insisted on spreading. He moved more papers and then folded his blotter to concentrate the coffee. A small brown tsunami headed for his lap. "They told me this was temporary," he said, pushing hurriedly back from the desk.

"They tell everybody it's gonna be temporary, Av," Wallace says. "We all still here, though." Howie Wallace was six-three, with an impressive set of shoulder-length dreads, glaring black eyes, and a mouthful of large teeth. His unofficial nickname was Mau-Mau, the origins of which were shrouded in mystery. He liked to wear unconventional, almost costume clothes so that the criminal element would always make him for a pimp.

Wallace started laughing. "Look at that shit go."

"Here" was officially called the Interagency Liaison Branch of the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department. The branch had been established at headquarters to deal with the explosion of federal agencies involved in counterterrorism and state security matters since nine-eleven. The federal War on Terror bureaucracy had become so large that a Metro District cop could hardly work a simple street mugging without seeing some feds watching from across the streets of downtown Washington. The ILB's mission was: if what you're doing involves feds, bring it to ILB, which would then try its best to move said problem into the federal bureaucracy's ever-expanding lap. There was a second, unofficial reason for ILB's existence: this was where the department assigned detectives who had exhibited either unconventional personalities or worse, much worse, independent attitudes. If someone had been ordered to walk the plank at MPD, ILB was the plank.

Straight-up crimes in the District were handled by the MPD's District and police service area detectives. Those incidents or issues that entangled or had even the potential to entangle the MPD with the brave new world of state security were known throughout the MPD as tarbabies, as in, touch one and it gets all over you, usually forever. Hence ILB's unofficial nickname: the Briar Patch. Wrangling tarbabies was not an assignment much sought after in the ranks of MPD detectives, which meant that none of ILB's four serving detectives were volunteers.

Av Smith was one of those guys who seemed to get bigger as you got closer to him. He was five-ten and had the physique of a weight lifter up top and a runner down below. He worked out in the police gym every day of the week and usually ran ten miles before coming to work. He shaved his head every third day and favored sport coats instead of suits, mostly because he couldn't find suits off the rack that could accommodate his enlarged torso and arms. He had brown eyes and a large nose that had been broken and reset a few times, which was why he'd taken up weight lifting in the first place. He could no longer remember when someone last took a swing at him. The last guy who did probably couldn't remember it, either.

His nickname, Av, came as the result of a disagreement with his boss in the Second District. Av had had something of a personality conflict with his lieutenant. In the MPD that meant that the lieutenant had a personality, and Av had a conflict. His boss then, one Lieutenant Parsons, was apparently fed up with the amount of time Av was spending at the police gym during working hours. Av had pointed out that physical fitness was supposedly a departmental priority, in theory if not necessarily in practice. He'd then stared pointedly at the lieutenant's own prominent front porch. Parsons took immediate offense and lectured Av on how he had been chasing down bad guys while Av was still in diapers. Av retorted that the lieutenant would need a pair of Superman's diapers to chase down his own shadow. Things went downhill from there, culminating in a declaration by the lieutenant that, you, Detective Smith, are a "relentlessly average" detective. Your work's average, your closure rate is average, hell, even your name's average, for Chrissake! He'd been "Average" Smith ever since, Av to his squad room, and, then three months later, he'd become the newest member of the Briar Patch posse.

Av liked police work, if not what seemed to him like three too many layers of bosses associated with it. He actually enjoyed apprehending bad guys and building cases against them. He was known by the criminal element in his district as the skinhead white guy who showed up wearing running shoes and openly carrying an ASP in the hopes that a perp would elude and evade. He had been known to use that collapsible baton, too. One time, when Av was still a beat cop, two gangbangers were sitting in their stolen ride, its nose wrapped around a telephone pole, giving the two attending detectives an elaborate ration of crap. Av had produced the ASP and hit the windshield in the sweet spot. His theory was that it was hard to concentrate on talking proper trash when you had a lap full of broken glass. Normally an ASP couldn't do that to safety glass, but with Av behind it, the whole thing had caved in on them. The terrified bangers ultimately agreed to take the blame for the windshield, which the cops pronounced was only right. Word got around: don't mess with the skinhead five-oh with the big arms and the international orange tenny-pumps. And his ASP.

Av was actually a native of the District of Columbia, which made him one of a rare species in a city filled with political transients, military, and almost a million suburban commuters. His parents, now retired in Florida, had been federal civil servants in the Transportation Department. He'd grown up in northwest D.C., attended public schools, and then, uninterested in college, he'd done a stint in the Marines, where he developed an appetite for extreme physical fitness. He used his veteran's preference to get a slot at the police academy and had made detective in five years. At the moment, he was the only white guy in ILB.


Excerpted from Cold Frame by P. T. Deutermann. Copyright © 2015 P. T. Deutermann. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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