Retired CIA assassin Kirk McGarvey faces the most formidable adversary of his long and storied career in End Game, the action-packed thriller from New York Times bestselling author David Hagberg
The CIA’s headquarters should be the safest place on Earth, but a highly professional, violently psychopathic assassin is on the loose. A series of murders extends as far as a prison outside of Athens, Greece.
These gruesome crimes are not performed at random; a code carved into four copper panels of the legendary statue in a courtyard at CIA headquarters predicts the manner of the killings and their terrible necessity. Before the first Iraq war, something horrifying was buried in the foothills above the oil city of Kirkuk. It will not remain hidden forever.
Only Pete Boylan, retired CIA assassin Kirk McGarvey, and the CIA’s odd-duck genius, Otto Rencke, can uncover the truth in the four copper panels and find the terrifying device interred in Iraq. This devastating truth could well ignite the entire Middle East into an unstoppable, apocalyptic war. This may be the most dangerous assignment of McGarvey’s long and storied career yet.
This edition of the book is the deluxe, tall rack mass market paperback.
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By David Hagberg
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 David Hagberg
All rights reserved.
Walter Wager heaved himself off the floor, using the edge of his desk for leverage, blood running down the collar of his white shirt from a ragged wound in the side of his neck. He was an old man, even older than his fifty-four, because of the life he'd led as a deep-cover agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.
He was no longer an NOC, and he'd struggled for the last year, sitting behind a desk, in a tiny office buried on the third floor of the Original Headquarters Building, trying to lead a normal life, trying to fit in with the normal day-to-day routine without the nearly constant danger he'd faced for thirty-five years.
The beginning of the end for him had come eight years ago when his wife, Sandee, had been shot to death during a situation that had gone terribly bad in Caracas. They were meeting with a cryptanalyst from SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence service, who'd promised to hand over the latest data encryption algorithms his science directorate had devised. It was late at night in the warehouse district when the transfer of money for a disk had just taken place, and the headlights of a half dozen police vehicles came on, illuminating the three of them.
Sandee slammed her shoulder into the cryptanalyst's chest, knocking him backward. "Run!" she shouted.
Wager reached for her arm, the same time the police opened fire, hitting her in the back and in her head, and she went down hard.
Something very hot plucked at Wager's left elbow, and on instinct alone he jogged to the left, away from the headlights, and with bullets slamming into the pavement all around him and singing past his head, he managed to make it into one of the abandoned buildings.
Several cars started up, someone shouted something, and police came after him. But he was running for his life, the adrenaline high in his system. And somehow he managed to escape back into the city to the safe house he'd set up in the first days after his arrival. Sandee had called it: refuge.
"Let's hope we never have to use it," she'd said the first time he'd brought her there.
He'd never forgotten her words or the sight of her falling forward, bullets ripping into her body. And no day had gone by since then when her face, the feel of her body, her breath on his cheek, didn't come to him in the middle of the night.
He was dying now, and of all things, what he would miss the most would be his dreams.
Calling for help would do no good. It was well past midnight, and all the offices on this floor were empty. No one would hear him. But security was just a phone call away. And even if they couldn't get here in time to save his life, he would be able to tell them who his killer was.
Though not why.
"Don't touch the phone, Walter," warned the man behind him.
Wager's heart pounded in his ears as he reached for the phone on his desk. He felt no real pain, only weakness from the terrible blood loss, and an absolute incredulity not at what was happening but how it was happening.
The face of his attacker was that of a stranger, but the voice was familiar. From years ago, maybe just before the second Iraq war. In the mountains outside of Kirkuk they were looking for WMDs that a lot of people in the Company knew didn't exist. All that was required were a few photographs, something with a serial number or any sort of markings the analysts at Langley could use.
There'd been seven of them spread out over a twenty-five-mile line, and he remembered the guy they called the Cynic, who'd called himself a realist: the only sane man in a world gone completely batshit.
The man took Wager by the arm and gently turned him around so they were facing each other. The Cynic, if that was who he was, had a lot of blood around his mouth.
"It's too late to call anyone."
Wager was hearing music from somewhere, very low but very close. Church organ music, complicated.
"You never had culture, Walter. Too bad," the man said. His voice was soft, with maybe a British accent. But high-class.
"Why what? Why am I here? Why have I decided to kill you? Why like this?" The Cynic turned away, his eyes half closed, a dreamy expression on his bloody face.
The music was Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Wager couldn't say why he'd dredged that up out of some distant memory, but he was sure of it, and it was coming from a small player in the breast pocket of the Cynic's dark blue blazer.
"Yes, why?" Wager asked, his voice ragged and distant even in his own ears. He felt cold and weak, barely able to stay on his feet.
"Sandee was such a lovely girl. Was from the beginning, She never belonged with a bore like you."
The Cynic had a round, perfectly normal face, small ears, thin sand-colored hair, a slight build. Everyman. Someone you would never pick out of a crowd, someone you would never remember. Perfect in the role of an NOC. The accent was a fake, of course, because if he was the man Wager was remembering, he was from somewhere in the Midwest. But how he knew Sandee — who was a big-city San Francisco girl — was beyond comprehension just at this moment.
"I knew her," the Cynic said. "And I was fucking her before Caracas."
A blind rage rose up, blotting out Wager's weakness, and he lurched forward, but the Cynic merely pushed him back against the desk, grabbing his arm so he wouldn't fall down.
"I wanted to get your attention, and I have it now. Maybe briefly, but I have it."
Wager's head was swimming.
"You illuminated the spot with an encrypted GPS marker. I need to know the password."
He was the Cynic from Iraq, but Wager could not dredge up a name — though it would have been a work name, it would have been a start. "It's gone."
"The password or the stash?"
"Is this about money?"
The Cynic laughed softly, the sound from the back of his throat. "Come on, Walter. Is there anything more important?"
Wager could think of a lot of things more important than money in whatever forms it came.
"The password, probably both. The country has been overrun. Holes in the sand dug just about everywhere."
"They didn't find the bioweapons labs. What makes you think they found the cache?"
"Because the weapons never existed. Nor was there any heroin. And you didn't fuck my wife."
"Ah, but I did. She had a small mole on her left thigh, just below her pussy. Remember?"
Wager leaned back against the desk for support, and he tried to hide his effort to reach the phone, but the Cynic pulled him away, a broad smile on his bloody lips. Even his teeth were red, and Wager thought that a bit of flesh was hanging from the side of the man's mouth.
"The password, please."
"I don't have it," Wager said, and it came to him that the Cynic wasn't lying: he had fucked Sandee. But then, in those days, everybody was fucking everybody else. Wives, girlfriends, sisters, even mothers. It didn't matter. What mattered was the moment. It was the game from the get-go, so the stories went. From the beginning of the Agency, and even before that in the WWII OSS. Fucking was not only the ultimate aphrodisiac; it was a powerful tool.
Wager thought that the happiest time of his entire life had been during training at the CIA's base on Camp Peary in Virginia — south of DC. It was called the Farm because it grew agents. They were young and naive. Anxious for the future, but dedicated. "Truth, justice, and the American way," a former DCI had supposedly once said. They were supermen and women. It was where he had first met Sandee, who was two years older than he was. But they'd been a natural pair from the beginning, though at first he'd thought she'd been working him, been given him as an assignment. But then he fell in love — and he'd always thought she had too — and nothing else mattered.
"Too bad for you," the Cynic said. "But there are others."
Wager started to shake his head, if for nothing else but to ward off what he knew was coming next. But it didn't help.
Grinning like a madman, the Cynic took Wager into his arms and began to eat his face, starting at the nose, powerful teeth shredding flesh and cartilage.CHAPTER 2
Marty Bambridge, the CIA's deputy director of operations, was awakened by his wife, who kept pushing at his shoulder. He was in a foul mood: too much red wine last night at dinner, from which nothing was left but a son-of-a-bitch headache and a crappy taste in his mouth. Along with that was the rumor floating around campus that the DCI Walt Page was on his way out, and there was talk of a clean sweep. All the old brass was going with him.
Which meant the heads of each directorate — intelligence, science and technology, management and services, and operations, formerly the directorate of national clandestine service.
Bambridge was a spy master, a job he knew he'd been meant for, when as a kid studying law and foreign relations at the University of Minnesota he'd read and reread every espionage novel he could get his hands on — especially the James Bond stories. But never in his dreams in those days did he believe he would actually get to run the CIA's spies.
If it was actually coming to an end for him, he had no earthly idea what he would do with himself. He was helpless and frightened, which made him angry.
He growled at his wife. "What?"
"Phone," she mumbled. She handed it to him, then rolled over and went back to sleep.
"Bambridge," he said, sitting up.
"This is Bob Blankenship, campus security, sir. We have a problem."
"Write me a memo, for Christ's sake. I'll deal with it in the morning."
"No, sir. Mr. Page has been informed, and he specifically wants you involved. There's been a murder here on the third floor of the OHB. One of your people. A former field officer."
Bambridge was suddenly wide-awake. He turned on the nightstand light. It was after 1A.M. "Who is it?"
"The security pass we found on the body identified him as Walter Wager. He worked as a mid-level operational planner on your staff."
"I know him."
"You said murder? How?"
"I think it would be best if you came in and took a look yourself. Mr. Page did not want the authorities notified before you had a chance to get here. Nor are we moving the body."
"Shit, shit," Bambridge said under his breath. "Any witnesses?"
"He was alone on the floor."
"God damn it. One of the cameras in the corridor must have picked up something."
"They were disabled."
"Who the hell was monitoring?"
"A loop was inserted into the recording unit for the entire floor. Shows the same images over and over."
Bambridge tried to think of some reason he wouldn't have to go out. At forty-three, he had become soft. He'd never actually served as a field officer, though he did two five-year stints as assistant to the chief of station, one in Ottawa and the other in Canberra, neither them hot spots under any stretch of the imagination. He'd never humped his butt in Iraq or Afghanistan like many of the officers who'd worked for him had, so he'd never formed a bond — especially not with the NOCs who he'd always considered to be prima donnas. Just like Wager.
"Turn out the light," his wife said.
"I'll be there in twenty minutes," he told the security officer. "Touch nothing."
He got up and flipped on the lights in the bathroom and the closet. His wife buried her head deeper into the covers. If she had been a thoughtful woman, Marty mused, she would have gotten up and had the coffee on by now.
It was just one more brick in his wall of frustration and anger.
* * *
They had a nice two-story colonial on Davis Street NW near the Naval Observatory, and Bambridge had crossed the Key Bridge and was heading north on the GW Parkway to Langley before one thirty. Traffic was very light, the October morning cool, even crisp after a steamy summer, but he felt a heaviness in his chest he'd never felt before. And he was a little worried. His wife sometimes called him a hypochondriac, but over the past few months, and especially this morning, he'd seriously begun to get concerned he was developing heart troubles. It was the stress of the job, he told himself. Lately the stress of losing his job. And just now a murder inside the CIA's campus. It was unbelievable, and the only other word he could think of was incompetence. Heads would roll, he would make sure of it.
The security officers at the main gate looked up as Bambridge's BMW breezed through the employee lane; a bar code in the windshield along with a photograph of the driver's face recognized the car and the DDO even before the rear bumper cleared.
Up at the OHB, which was the first of several buildings on campus, Bambridge's bar code allowed him access to the underground VIP parking garage, and three minutes later he was getting off the elevator on the third floor — having passed his badge through the security reader in the basement and submitted to a retinal scan.
Bambridge was a narrow, slope-shouldered man whose acquaintances described him as almost always surprised, but whose friends described him as seriously intent. His features were dark; some French Canadian blood a couple of generations ago, according to his mother, who still lived in northern Minnesota. He harbored the more romantic notion that a Sicilian had gotten in there somewhere, which gave him a penchant for mysteriousness and a touch of violence.
Blankenship, a much taller, broader man in his early fifties, who wore a ridiculous military buzz cut, had been notified of the DDO's arrival and was waiting for him.
"I hope you haven't had breakfast yet, sir," he said.
"No. Let's get this over with so I can."
At least a dozen security officers in short-sleeved shirts, khaki trousers, badges, and pistols in hip holsters filled the corridor around an open door just three down from the elevator.
"We've taken all the photographs we need, and I've had our techs dust for fingerprints and collect whatever DNA evidence they could find," Blankenship said. "We're also looking at the hard disk on Walt's computer, along with his phone records for the past three months."
"I want his entire contact sheet — computer, phone, and face-to-face — for as far back as you can dig it up," Bambridge replied.
"Yes, sir," the security officer said. "Can you think of any enemies Mr. Wager might have had?"
The guy had to be kidding. Bambridge gave him a look. "North Koreans, Cubans, Iraqis, Iranians, some Russians, Afghanis. Shall I go on?"
"Sorry, sir. I meant here on campus."
"He's only been back less than a year. I don't think Walt even had enough time to make friends let alone enemies."
Another security officer was leaning against the wall just before the open door. He looked a little green. When Bambridge and Blankenship approached, he straightened up.
Around the corner, just inside the tiny office, Bambridge pulled up short. The stench of fecal matter, and of something sweet, hit him all at once, at the same time he caught sight of the blood pooled on the floor. But then he came full face on with the ruined remains of what he could only vaguely describe as a human being. His stomach did a very sharp roll.
Wager, if that was who it was, had been destroyed from the neck up. Something had bitten or chewed out the entire side of his neck on the left side, blood all down the front and side of his white shirt. His face had been massively damaged as well, as if a pack of wild animals had had at him. His nose was mostly gone, his eyebrows shredded, his lips missing, his teeth obscenely white.
Bambridge stepped back a pace, a sickness rising in his throat. "My God," he whispered.
Wager's body lay on its side in front of a small desk. The chair had been pushed to one side, up against a file cabinet. The back of his trousers was completely covered in fecal matter. He'd lost control of his bowels either at the time of his death or shortly before. If there had been any sign of horror or pain or surprise on his face, it was completely gone. His features had either been eaten away or were covered in blood and tissue — human meat.
It was the most awful thing Bambridge had ever seen or imagined.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I could not have described this to you," Blankenship said.
"Could a guard dog have gotten in here?" Bambridge asked. It was the only thing he could think to ask.
"No, sir. They're all accounted for. Anyway, none of our dogs would have done something like this."
"A wild animal?"
"Maybe, but then someone with the proper badges to get into this building, onto this floor, and into this office would have had to let it in."
"No one saw or heard a thing?"
Excerpted from End Game by David Hagberg. Copyright © 2016 David Hagberg. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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