W. E. B. Griffin’s #1 New York Times bestselling series finds Presidential Agent Charley Castillo in the middle of an investigation into kidnapping, assassination, and even political scandal in this action-packed thriller.
U.S. Army Special Forces Major Charley Castillo is tasked with a discreet mission by the President himself: to investigate the death of an American diplomat in Argentina and the kidnapping of that diplomat’s wife. With the woman’s children and family now at risk, Castillo’s running out of time to uncover the connections and truth behind it all.
Amidst threats, murder, and a scandal tying the United Nations to Iraq, there is also a lot of money flying around—and some people will do anything it takes to get their hands on it...
About the Author
W. E. B. Griffin is the author of seven bestselling series: The Corps, Brotherhood of War, Badge of Honor, Men at War, Honor Bound, Presidential Agent, and now Clandestine Operations. He lives in Fairhope, Alabama, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Date of Birth:November 10, 1929
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Read an Excerpt
By W.E.B. Griffin
Putnam AdultISBN: 0-399-15314-4
Chapter OneFlughafen Schwechat Vienna, Austria 1630 12 July 2005
As an American, Jean-Paul Lorimer was always annoyed or embarrassed, or both, every time he arrived at Vienna's international airport. The first thing one saw when entering the terminal was a Starbucks kiosk.
The arrogance of Americans to sell coffee in Vienna! With such a lurid red neon sign!
Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer, PhD-a very black man of forty-six who was somewhat squat, completely bald, spoke in a nasal tone, and wore the latest in European fashion, including tiny black-framed glasses, and Italian loafers in which he more waddled than walked-had written his doctoral thesis on Central European history. He knew there had been coffee in Europe as early as 1600.
Dr. Lorimer also knew that after the siege of Vienna in 1675, the fleeing Turkish Army left behind bags of "black fodder." Franz Georg Kolschitzy, a Viennese who had lived in Turkey, recognized it as coffee. Kolschitzky promptly opened the first coffee house. It offered free newspapers for his customers to read while they were drinking his coffee, which he refined by straining out the grounds, and adding milk and sugar.
It was an immediate success, and coffee almost immediately became a part of cultured society in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And spread from there around the world.
Dr. Lorimer waddled past the line of travelers at the kiosk, shaking his head in disgust. And now the Americans are bringing it, as if they invented it, like Coca-Cola, to the world? Spreading American culture? Good God! Outrageous!
Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer no longer thought of himself as an American. For the past twenty-two years, he had been a career professional employee of the United Nations, with the personal rank of minister for the last five.
His title was Chief, European Directorate of Inter-Agency Coordination. It had its headquarters in Paris, and thus he had lived there nearly a quarter-century. He had purchased an apartment several years ago on Rue Monsieur in the VII Arrondissement and planned-when the time was right-to buy a little house somewhere on the Cote d'Azur. He hadn't even considered, until recently, of ever returning to the United States to live.
Dr. Lorimer's blue, gold-stamped United Nations diplomatic passport saw him waved quickly past the immigration officer on duty.
He got in the taxi line, watched as the driver put his small, take-aboard suitcase into the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz, got in the back, and told the driver, in German, to take him to an address on Cobenzlgasse.
Lorimer had mixed feelings, most of them bad, about Vienna, starting with the fact that it was difficult to get here from Paris by air. There was no direct service. One had to go to either London or Brussels first to catch a plane. Today, because he had to get here as quickly as possible, he'd come via London. An extra hour and a half of travel time that got him here two hours earlier than going through Brussels would have.
There was the train, of course, The Mozart, but that took forever. Whenever he could, Lorimer dispatched one of his people to deal with things in Vienna.
It was a beautiful city, of course. Lorimer thought of it as the capital city of a non-existent empire. But it was very expensive-not that that mattered to him any more-and there was a certain racist ambiance. There was practically none of that in Paris, which was one of the reasons Lorimer loved France generally and Paris in particular.
He changed his line of thought from the unpleasant to the pleasant. While there was nothing at all wrong with the women in Paris, a little variety was always pleasant. You could have a buxom blonde from Poland or Russia here in Vienna, and that wasn't always the case in Paris.
Jean-Paul Lorimer had never married. When he'd been working his way up, there just hadn't been the time or the money, and when he reached a position where he could afford to marry, there still hadn't been the time.
There had been a film about ten years ago in which the actor Michael Caine had played a senior diplomat who similarly simply didn't have the time to take a wife, and had found his sexual release with top-notch hookers. Jean-Paul reluctantly had identified with Caine's character.
The apartment Lorimer was going to was the Viennese pied a terre of Henri Douchon, a Lebanese business associate. Henri, as Lorimer, was of Negroid ancestry-with some Arab, of course, but a black skinned man, taller and more slender-who also had never married and who enjoyed buxom blonde women.
Henri also liked lithe blonde young men-that sort of thing was common in the middle east-but he sensed that Jean-Paul was made uncomfortable in that ambience, and ran them off from the apartment when Jean-Paul was in town, replacing them with the buxom blonde Poles or whatever they both liked. Sometimes four or even six of them.
I might as well enjoy myself; God only knows what will happen tomorrow.
* * *
There was no response to the door bell of the apartment when Jean-Paul rang it.
Henri had not answered his phone, either, when Jean-Paul had called that morning from Paris to tell him he was coming. He had called from one of the directorate's phones-not his-so the call couldn't be traced to him, and he hadn't left a message on the answering machine, either, for the same reason.
But he knew Henri was in town, because when he was not, he unplugged his telephone, which caused the number to "ring" forever without activating the answering machine.
Jean-Paul waited exactly ninety seconds-timing it with his Omega chronometer as he looked back onto Cobenzlgasse, the cobblestone street that he knew led up the hill to the position where Field Marshal Radetsky had his headquarters when the Turks were at the gates of Vienna-before putting his key in the lock.
There was no telling what Henri might be doing, and might be unwilling to immediately interrupt. It was simply good manners to give him ninety seconds.
When he pushed the door open, he could hear music-Bartok, Jean-Paul decided-which suggested Henri was at home.
"Henri," he called. "C'est moi, Jean-Paul!"
There was no answer.
As he walked into the apartment, there was an odor he could not immediately identify. The door from the sitting room to Henri's bedroom was open. The bed was mussed but empty.
Jean-Paul found Henri in the small office, which Henri somewhat vainly called the study.
He was sitting in the leather upholstered, high back desk chair. His arms were tied to the arms with leather belts. He was naked. His throat had been cut-cut through almost to the point of decapitation.
His hairy, somewhat flabby chest was blood soaked, and blood had run down from his mouth over his chin.
There was a bloody kitchen knife on the desk, and a bloody pair of pliers. Jean-Paul was made uncomfortable by the sight, of course, but he was never anywhere close to panic or nausea or anything like that.
He had spent a good deal of time, as he worked his way up in the United Nations, in places like the Congo, and had grown accustomed to the sight and smell of mutilated bodies.
He looked again at the body and at the desk and concluded that before they'd cut his throat, they had torn out two fingernails and then-probably later-half a dozen of his teeth. The torso and upper thighs had also been slashed in many places, probably with the knife.
I knew something like this would probably happen, but not this soon. I thought at the minimum we would have another two weeks or so.
Did anyone see me come in?
I gave the cab driver the address of a house six up Cobenzlgasse from this one, and made sure that he saw me walking up the walk to it before he drove off.
Is there anything incriminating in the apartment?
Probably after what they did to him, there is nothing of interest or value left.
And it doesn't matter, anyway. It's time for me to go.
The only question seems to be whether they will be waiting for me in Paris.
It is possible this is only a warning to me.
But certainly, I can't operate on that assumption.
Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer walked calmly out of the study, reclaimed his carry-on suitcase where he'd left it when coming in, paused thoughtfully a moment, then took the key to the apartment from his pocket and laid it on the table by the door.
Then he walked out of the apartment and onto Cobenzlgasse, dragging his suitcase behind him. He walked down the hill to the streetcar loop, and when one came, got on it.
When the streetcar reached the Vienna Opera on Karnter Ring, he got off, and then boarded a streetcar which carried him to the Vienna West railroad station on Mariahilferstrasse.
He bought a ticket for a private single room on Train EN 262, charging it to his United Nations Platinum American Express card.
Then, seeing that he had enough time before the train would leave for Paris's Gare de l'Est at eight thirty-four, he walked out of the station, found a coffee house, and ordered a double coffee mit schlagobers, and took a copy of the Wiener Kurier from the rack to read while he drank his coffee.
Chapter Two7, Rue Monsieur Paris VII, France 1205 13 July 2005
Dr. Jean-Paul Lorimer took a last sad look around his apartment. He knew he was going to miss so many of his things-and not only the exquisite antiques he had been able to afford in recent years-but there was simply nothing that could be done about it.
He also had second thoughts about leaving nearly seven thousand euros in the safe. Seven thousand euros was right at eight thousand dollars U.S. But leaving just about everything-including money in the safe-would almost certainly confuse, at least for a while, anyone looking for him.
And it wasn't as if he would be going to Shangri-La without adequate financial resources. Spread more or less equally between the Banco Central; the Banco COFAC; the Banco de Credito; and the Banco Hipotecario were sixteen million dollars, more money that Jean-Paul could have imagined having ten years before.
And in Shangri-la, there was both a luxury apartment overlooking a white sand beach of the Atlantic Ocean at Puente del Este and, a hundred or so miles farther north, in the Tacuarembo Province of Uruguay, an isolated 2,000-hectare estancia on which cattle were being profitably raised.
All of the property and bank accounts were in the name of Jean-Paul Bertrand, whose Lebanese passport, issued by the Lebanese foreign ministry, carried Jean- Paul Lorimer's photograph and thumb print. Getting the passport had cost a fortune, but it was now obvious that it was money well spent.
Jean-Paul was taking with him only two medium-sized suitcases, plus the take-aboard suitcase he'd had with him in Vienna. Spread between the three was one hundred thousand U.S. dollars in neat little packs of five thousand dollars each. It was more or less concealed in shoes, socks, inner suit jacket pockets, and so on. He had already steeled himself to throwing away the cash if it developed he could not travel to Shangri-La without passing through a luggage inspection.
He also had five thousand dollars-in five packets of a thousand each-in various pockets of his suit and four passports, all bearing his likeness, but none of them issued by any government.
Jean-Paul had some trouble with the two suitcases and the carry-aboard until he managed to flag down a taxi, but after that things went smoothly.
From Charles deGaulle International, he flew on Royal Air Maroc, as Omar del Danti, a Moroccan national, to Mohamed V International in Casablanca. Two hours later, he boarded, as Maurice LeLand, a French national, an Air France flight to Dakar's Yoff International Airport in Senegal. Still as LeLand, at nine-thirty that night he boarded the Al Italia flight to San Paolo, Brazil. There he boarded a twin-turbo prop aircraft belonging to Nordeste Linhas Aereas, a Brazilian regional airline, and flew to Santa Maria.
In Santa Maria, after calling his estancia manager, he got on an enormous intercity bus-nicer, he thought, than any Greyhound he'd ever been on. There was a television screen for each seat; a cold buffet; and even some rather nice, if generic, red wine-and rode it for about two hundred miles to Jaguarao, a farming town straddling the Brazil-Uruguay border.
Ricardo, his estancia manager, was waiting for him there with a Toyota Land Cruiser. They had a glass of a much better red, a local merlot, in a decent, if somewhat primitive restaurant, and then drove out of town. Which also meant into Uruguay. If there was some sort of passport control on either side of the border, Dr. Lorimer didn't see it. Two hours later, the Land Cruiser turned off a well-maintained gravel road and passed under a wrought iron sign reading SHANGRI-LA.
"Welcome home, doctor," Ricardo said.
"Thank you, Ricardo," Jean-Paul said, and then, "I'm going to be here for a while. The fewer people who know that, the better."
"I understand, doctor."
"And I think, mano a mano, Ricardo, that you will understand I'll more than likely be in need of a little company."
"Tonight, doctor? You must be tired from your travel."
"Well, let's see if you can come up with something that will rekindle my energy."
"There are one or two maids, young girls," Ricardo said, "that you may find interesting."
"Good," Dr. Lorimer said.
Ten minutes later the Land Cruiser pulled up before a rambling one-story white painted masonry house.
Half a dozen servants came quickly out of the house to welcome El Patron home. One of them, a light skinned girl who appeared to be about sixteen, did indeed look interesting.
Dr. Lorimer smiled at her as he walked into the house.
Chapter ThreeThe United States Embassy Avenida Colombia 4300 Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina 1825 20 July 2005
J. Winslow Masterson, a very tall, well-dressed, very black African-American of forty-two, who was almost belligerently American and loathed most things French, stood leaning on the frame of his office window looking at the demonstration outside.
Masterson's office was on the second floor of the embassy building, just down the hall from that of the ambassador. Masterson was deputy chief of mission-read Number Two, or Executive Officer, or Deputy Ambassador-and at the moment was the acting minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the President of the United States to the Republic of Argentina.
The ambassador, Juan Manuel Silvio, was "across the river"-in Montevideo, Uruguay-having taken a more or less working lunch with Michael A. McGrory, the minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the President of the United States to the Republic of Uruguay. The two ambassadors or their chiefs of mission got together regularly, every two weeks, either in Buenos Aires or Montevideo.
Silvio had taken the red-eye, the first flight from Jorge Newberry airport in downtown Buenos Aires, which departed on the twenty-six minute flight to Montevideo at 7:05 A.M., and he would return on the 3:10 P.M. Busque-Bus. The high speed catamaran ferry made the trip in just over three hours. The ambassador said that much time allowed him to deal uninterrupted in the comfortable first class cabin with at least some of the bureaucratic papers that accumulated on his desk.
There were, Masterson guessed, maybe three hundred demonstrators today, banging pots and pans, held back by fences and maybe fifty cops of the Mounted Police, half of them actually on horseback.
The demonstrators waved-at least when they thought the TV cameras were rolling-banners protesting the International Money Fund, the United States role therein, American fiscal policy, and America generally. There were at least a half-dozen banners displaying the likeness of Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
The Argentine adulation of Guevara both surprised and annoyed Masterson. He admitted a grudging admiration for Fidel Castro, who had taken a handful of men into the mountains of Cuba for training, then overthrown the Cuban government, and had been giving the finger to the world's most powerful nation ever since.
But Guevara was another story. Guevara, an Argentine who was a doctor, had been Castro's medic. But so far as Masterson knew that was all he had ever done to successfully further the cause of communism. As a revolutionary, he had been a spectacular failure. His attempt to communize Africa had been a disaster. All it had taken to see him flee the African continent with his tail between his legs was a hundred-odd man covert detachment of African-American Special Forces soldiers. And when he'd moved to Bolivia, an even smaller covert group of Green Berets, this one mostly made up of Cuban-Americans, had been waiting for him, not so much to frustrate his revolutionary ambitions as to make him a laughing stock all over Latin America.
Excerpted from THE HOSTAGE by W.E.B. Griffin Excerpted by permission.
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