David Hagberg's New York Times bestselling Kirk McGarvey series continues in Flash Points, the action-packed thriller about a plot to lead a president towards impeachment
Retired CIA assassin Kirk McGarvey is taking a much needed break. Then a bomb in his car explodes just as he's leaving the vehicle. He barely escapes with his life.
The men who went after McGarvey are also after the President of the United States. A controversial candidate, he has just won a heated, heavily contested presidential election. Now his enemies are determined to push him out of office. These men hire a contractor to set up three terrorist assaults in the US as well as other attacks around the globe in hopes of driving him from office. These strikes are at flash points so critical they could incite all-out nuclear war.
But the president’s enemies have not reckoned on Kirk McGarvey. He has survived their attempt on his life, and he is determined to hunt them down and stop them at all costs.
They made a mistake in going after the CIA’s #1 assassin.
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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
It was early March but summer had already arrived in southern Florida, and except for a pleasant breeze off Sarasota Bay, the afternoon would have been overly hot for Kirk McGarvey and the eight philosophy students seated in front of him on the grass.
McGarvey, Mac to his friends, had been the youngest director ever of the Central Intelligence Agency — a job he had detested because he was no administrator. Since then he'd taken on a variety of freelance assignments for the Company, all of which had been too urgent or simply impossible for the government to handle on its own.
In between times he taught philosophy for one dollar per year at Sarasota's New College, a semi-private ultra-liberal and prestigious small college. His specialty was Voltaire, the eighteenth-century intellectual and wit, who'd maintained that common sense wasn't so common after all.
Slightly under six feet with the build of a rugby player and the grace of a ballet dancer, Mac was a man around fifty, with eyes that were sometimes green, or gray, like now, when he felt something or someone was gaining on him.
"How many of you know the name O. J. Simpson?" he asked.
One of the boys said, "He's the one who killed his girlfriend and some guy."
"His ex-wife and her lover," one of the other students said.
"He was acquitted," McGarvey said. His own philosophy had always been if you throw a stick into a pack of dogs, the one that barks got hit. His students over the past three years knew that they were being manipulated, but they loved it, because of the sometimes intense discussions that usually followed.
"Yes, but he did it."
One of the girls laughed. "You've been hoisted on your own petard, Mac," she said. "Voltaire, and I quote: 'It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.'"
"Nice try, Darlene, but it's you who've been had, unless you don't believe in the basic premise of American jurisprudence."
Someone groaned. "Presumed innocent until proven guilty. But this is a course on Voltaire. Not fair."
McGarvey chuckled. A distant buzzer sounded, which marked the end of this period. "Five hundred words by Monday on what Voltaire would have thought about the trial. Arguments for why he would believe that O. J. was guilty and for why he would believe the man was innocent."
A forty-foot sloop out on the bay was heading south, probably for New Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. She was low on her lines, her dinghy was stowed and she had a wind vane for self-steering on the stern. A small, well-provisioned ship heading for happy places.
It was the last class on Friday, and his students, who often hung around to talk, took off. All across the small campus kids and instructors alike were heading out. Everyone here worked hard but played hard too.
His phone rang. It was Pete calling from his house on Casey Key, a barrier island a few miles south. She'd come down from Washington to spend a few days with him, as she'd been doing from time to time over the past year or so.
At one time she'd been an interrogator for the Company, but she'd fallen into helping McGarvey with an assignment that had started to go bad. And since then she'd been his unofficial partner, and a damned good operator in her own right. On top of all that she was in love with him, and he with her.
"How'd your day go?" she asked. She was nearly fifteen years younger than him, and in her interrogator days when she always worked with a male partner, the agency wags had labeled her and whoever her partner might be Beauty and the Beast. She was shorter than Mac, with the voluptuous figure of a movie star and a pretty oval face, and had become a crack shot with just about any variety of pistol.
"Good," he said automatically. But something had been nagging at him for the past week or so, and for some reason especially today. In his career, mostly as a shooter for the CIA, he'd had a chance to make a lot of enemies. From time to time one of them came gunning for him.
It had happened before, and he'd been getting the feeling that someone was nearby, watching him, tracking his routines, coming up on his six.
"I can drive up and meet you someplace for an early supper."
He wanted to say no. He wanted her out of the way, for the simple reason he was afraid for her safety. Every woman in his life — including his wife and daughter — had been assassinated because of who he was and what he did. And he was in love with her — against his will — and that frightened him even more.
"Marina Jack, outside," he said. The marina and restaurant on the bay just south of the Ringling Bridge was popular with the locals as well as tourists. It was almost always busy, and just now if Pete was going to be at his side, he wanted to be surrounded with people.
"Half hour," she said.
"See you there," McGarvey said, and as he headed back to his office he phoned his old friend Otto Rencke, who was the director of special projects for the CIA and the resident computer genius on campus there. He and Mac had a long history.
"You're done teaching for the day," Otto said without preamble. "You and Pete are meeting somewhere for a drink and something to eat."
"Right and right. Have your darlings been picking up on anything interesting lately?"
Otto's darlings were actually search engines a quantum leap even above Google, which sampled just about every known intelligence source on the entire planet, looking for threats to the U.S., especially to the CIA.
"Lotsa shit going down, but no nine/elevens just now. You getting premos?"
What Otto called "premos" were McGarvey's premonitions. He and just about everyone else on campus respected Mac's premos.
"Just around the edges."
"I'll call you back in a couple of minutes."
"Good enough," McGarvey said.
* * *
His tiny book-lined office was on the second floor of the philosophy department, already all but deserted for the weekend, one small window looking out across the campus toward the bay. The sailboat was approaching the buoy in the Intracoastal Waterway, which led out to the Gulf through New Pass.
He watched it for several moments, thinking about his wife, Katy. They had taken several trips from Casey Key on their Whitby 42 center cockpit ketch, twice out to the Abacos in the Bahamas. Good times, in sharp contrast to the sometimes almost impossibly bad times in his career and life. He'd been behind the limo in which his wife and their daughter were riding in when it exploded.
It was a memory permanently etched in his brain.
He took his Walther PPK in the 7.65mm version, his spare pistol, and an old friend, out of his desk and put it in his pocket. At that moment he thought it was important, though he couldn't say why.
Downstairs he nodded to a couple of instructors, but they didn't acknowledge him. He was wealthy by most standards, teaching for free, while they were scraping by on small salaries, and to hear them talk, busting their humps. In their view he was a dilettante, whose grades were always way too high on the curve.
Pete had sounded upbeat, looking forward to the weekend. She was leaving Sunday evening to return to Langley, where she was involved with training a half-dozen senior interrogators. The only complaints about her, so far as Otto had heard, came from the suits on the seventh floor who thought her methods had become overly aggressive in the past year or so. McGarvey had rubbed off on her.
Otto had sounded good too. Much happier now than in the old days because he was married to Louise, a woman nearly as smart as he was, and for whom he had an immense respect, and because of their adopted three-year-old daughter, Audie, who was Mac's daughter's only child.
The soft top on his '56 Porsche Speedster was down, the red-leather driver and passenger seat backs moved forward because of the sun. The car was one of his only indulgences — other than the Whitby. He had bought it totally restored two years ago for around fifty times the price when it had been new.
Maybe not a dilettante, he thought, getting in and starting the engine, and certainly not a billionaire like some he knew, but well off enough so that he could afford the toy, as Pete called it.
"You have the time in grade, and you deserve it," she'd said.
Something was wrong. Desperately wrong. A smell, a noise, something.
McGarvey looked for a shooter, for the glint of a gun scope lens on the rooftops across the street.
A car with tinted windows nearby.
Someone who obviously didn't belong on the school's campus walking away with a purpose.
A drone somewhere above.
Not bothering with the ignition key, he clambered over the door and got two feet away from the car when an impossibly bright flash enveloped him.
And then nothing.
The explosion echoed off the administration building across the street. Students within a hundred yards of what was left of the furiously burning Porsche hunkered down, bits of debris, rubber, plastic and leather raining from the clear blue sky.
One of the students, who went by the name of Antonio Gomez, stepped back, placing the cell phone he'd used to detonate the bomb in the pocket of his Bermuda shorts. He was a slightly built man with a dark complexion who could have been eighteen or nineteen, but in reality was twenty-nine. He'd come from Mexico City to study American government under Professor Frank Alcock. This was his first semester, and last, because he'd accomplished what he'd been paid to accomplish.
A girl who'd been standing a few feet away was on her knees, hands raised to the sky. "My God, my God, what's happening!" she screamed.
Within seconds other students who'd dropped to the ground were looking up, fear on their faces as if they knew that the bombing was just the first blow in a terrorist attack. More was coming and for the moment they were petrified.
Gomez wanted to pull out the Russian-made PSM pistol and put a couple of rounds into the silly girl's head to shut her up. He had two sisters, who like their mother were always whining about something, never satisfied with anything in their lives. Unlike him they were going nowhere.
Students started running in all directions, some across the street, others back through the campus toward the bay and still others to the north end of the parking lot and through the arch, to get away from the flames.
Gomez hunched up his backpack and followed a half-dozen students and several faculty to the south toward the Ringling Museum as the first of the campus cops from the nearby station came on the run. Already sirens were headed this way.
At one point he looked back, but the thick black smoke rising from the destroyed hulk of McGarvey's car obscured just about everything. The man had to have been killed instantly. The charred remains of his body could burn in hell forever.
* * *
Gomez's father, Arturo, had started out as a small-time attorney who specialized in defending Mexicans or those from Central and South America who'd illegally gotten into the U.S. and who were processed and sent by bus back across the border. He was paid to fast-track their legal immigration, and to represent them in the U.S. court system, mostly in El Paso but sometimes in San Diego.
Money had been tight until someone from the Sinaloa drug cartel showed up in his office and hired him on a handsome retainer to defend mules — the runners who brought the product across the border into the U.S. He wasn't very successful, but he diverted the attention of the Mexican and U.S. drug enforcement people, making it easier for the real mules to operate.
His son, Antonio had drifted for the next few years, playing drums in a rock band, working as a towel boy at a resort in Cancún, a waiter in Cabo San Lucas, and finally as a bartender at Puerto Vallarta. He was young and handsome, so he'd made decent money as a gigolo for older women coming down from the States for a little adventure.
All of it was more or less meaningless, until the same man from the cartel who'd hired his father, hired him on a retainer to do odd jobs at the resorts in Puerto Vallarta, such as passing instructions and very often cash to start-up operators from the States. Three times over the past two years he'd been sent to the States, once to San Francisco and twice to Detroit, with messages that couldn't be trusted even to encrypted phones or computers or area managers.
Two months ago he'd been instructed to fly to Atlanta, where he was to meet with a man named Rupert Hollman at a room in the Holiday Inn near the airport. This time he carried no message. His only instruction was to do as Rupert instructed him to do, then return to Mexico City, where he would be paid one hundred thousand dollars U.S. It would be by far his largest payday ever.
"And this will be just the start," his cartel contact promised.
Rupert, wearing jeans and a long-sleeved polo shirt, had met him in a second-floor room. He was a tall man, with dirty-blond hair, blue eyes and an accent that Gomez couldn't quite place, except it sounded faintly French.
The meeting lasted less than ten minutes, during which Antonio was shown several photographs of a man Rupert identified as Kirk McGarvey.
"Do you know this man?"
"Never seen him before."
"He is a professor of philosophy at a college in Sarasota, Florida. Your job will be to leave for Sarasota this evening, where you will enroll in the school as a first-term student in American government. You have been accepted, your first year's tuition and room and board have been paid. You will be given a small stipend. Do you understand?"
Rupert handed him a manila envelope. "Everything is there, including your dorm assignment. You'll make friends, you'll study hard, maybe even fall in love with the right girl. You will fit in. Do you understand this as well?"
"Yes, sir; will I be meeting with a drug dealer on campus?"
"Nothing like that. Your main job, besides blending in, will be to study McGarvey. In fact you are enrolled in one of his classes. Watch his movements. Especially how he comes and goes from campus. Does he drive himself, or is he chauffeured by this woman?"
Rupert, whose real name was Kamal al-Daran, and who'd once worked as a freelancer for Saudi Arabian intelligence under the code name al Nassr, "the Eagle," handed Gomez several photographs of an attractive woman.
"Her name is not important, just finding out if she shows up will be enough."
"Yes, sir. Then what?"
"Once a week you will call a number. It will ring twice but no one will answer. You will enter a five-digit code, make your report and then hang up."
Gomez nodded uncertainly.
"Within two months, three at the most, a package will be delivered to you. Sweets and other presents from home. In fact, make sure to share the top layer with your roommate, a young man by the name of Dana Cyr."
"What else will be in the package? Drugs?"
"The instructions and the means for you to assassinate McGarvey and the woman if she happens to be with him."
Gomez sank into himself just a little. He'd known for the last year or so that his cartel contact would have other work for him someday. Real work. That of eliminating enemies of the Sinaloas. Six months ago he'd been taken to a remote private shooting range up north, where he'd spent an entire week learning how to use a variety of weapons — handguns and sniper rifles, mostly. He'd also been taught how to use a number of poisons, and explosives — almost exclusively Semtex, a substance for which he'd developed a deep respect.
* * *
Gomez walked as far as the Ringling Museum and then up to Tamiami Trail, just making the bus out to the airport.
Yesterday the package of sweets plus the one-kilo brick of Semtex, the electronic detonator and the special phone to send the signal, and the instructions to place the explosives under the driver's seat of McGarvey's Porsche and send the signal as soon as the instructor got into his car, had arrived by FedEx.
He was given the bus schedule and tickets to fly from Sarasota to Atlanta and from there back to Mexico City. His plane left one hour from now.
Sitting in the backseat of the bus for the short ride to the airport, Gomez had time to examine his feelings now that he had made what he figured was probably his first kill. But he felt nothing, other than being successful, and rich — with more to come. And with being his own man.
He was no longer a gigolo. He was an operator.
Pete Boylan — Pete because her father, now dead, had wanted a boy — drove Mac's old Mercedes CLK 350 convertible, the top down, north on Tamiami Trail just coming into Sarasota, past the mall, when Otto called.
She remembered thinking later that until that point the day had been absolutely gorgeous; pale blue sky, a few puffy fair-weather cumulus clouds drifting in from the Gulf and some of the snowbirds already leaving for the north. But then the day had been shattered for her.
"Hi, Otto. Tell me that you and Louise and Audie are at the airport right now as a surprise, and I'll come to pick you up."
"Mac's been seriously hurt. His car blew up, and they took him to Sarasota Memorial."
A million horrible images flew through her brain at the speed of light, and she nearly sideswiped a pickup in the lane next to hers until she got herself under control.
Excerpted from "Flash Points"
Copyright © 2018 David Hagberg.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.
Table of Contents
Part One: Coma,
Part Two: Leak,
Part Three: The Consortium,
Part Four: Flash Points,
Also by David Hagberg,
About the Author,