In the wake of the unprecedented attack, CIA agent Ryan Kealey's operation goes into high gear. Naomi Kharmai, the British-born analyst who has taken on a daring new role with the Agency, is on his team again. But Kharmai is becoming increasingly unpredictable, and as they work their way toward the target, it becomes clear to Kealey that anyone is fair game--and no one can be trusted.
Thundering to a stark and chilling climax, The Invisible raises the stakes on every page. A crackingly intelligent thriller, it is filled with shocking betrayal and, ultimately, revenge.
Praise for Andrew Britton and his novels. . .
"Brilliantly well-written. . .a sizzling page-turner." --Brad Thor, New York Times bestselling author of Blowback and State of the Union
"Terrifying and gripping." --Stephen Frey, New York Times bestselling author of The Successor
"In this age of terrorism, [Britton's] plots seem to jump straight out of the headlines." --St. Louis Post Dispatch
"Exciting. . .high-octane action."--Publishers Weekly
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By ANDREW BRITTON
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2008 Andrew Britton
All rights reserved.
The whitewashed hotel at the foot of the Svínafellsjökull Glacier was simple, comfortable, and nearly empty, even though the roads were clear and spring had just given way to the short Arctic summer. In short, it was everything the lone traveler had been looking for when he'd walked into town two days earlier, legs aching from a day's worth of arduous trekking. It had been nearly three weeks since he'd departed the sprawling capital of Reykjavík, based 200 miles to the west, and he'd spent most of that time crossing the bleak Icelandic wilderness on foot. The Skaftafell Hotel seemed almost luxurious after his previous accommodations, a cramped, foul-smelling hut on the Morsárdalur mountain track. Still, he would have been satisfied with much less.
Southeastern Iceland was only the latest stop on what had become a prolonged expedition to some of the world's most challenging environments. Ryan Kealey wasn't exactly starting from scratch, as he'd spent his teens and early twenties hiking and climbing in places ranging from Washington's Mount Rainier to Ben Nevis in Scotland, but he'd never pushed himself as hard as he had in recent months. He knew where this sudden desire to test himself had come from, but while he had tried to address the source, he'd been unable to come up with any real answers. In large part, this was because he couldn't find the woman who'd caused him so much pain and frustration, despite his best efforts and high-level connections.
She'd walked out in January, four months after a terrorist attack in New York City that had nearly claimed her life. Kealey had waited for two months, putting out feelers, calling in favors, but it had gotten him nowhere. By the time March rolled around, he'd finally admitted defeat, accepting that she didn't want to be found. He'd pushed it aside for another few weeks, but then, tired of sitting around with nothing to do but think about her, he'd decided to strike out on his own. His only goal at the time was to clear his head, lose himself in the raw, primitive beauty of the world's most isolated regions.
That had been three months earlier. Since then he'd climbed Denali in Alaska, Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania, and Mount Cook in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. He'd crossed Chile's Atacama Desert at its widest point, scaled Morocco's High Atlas Mountains, and completed the 60-mile, six-day Paine Circuit in Patagonia. He had beaten his body to the point of sheer exhaustion and then had pushed harder, but nothing had helped. It had taken him half a year to figure it out, but the truth had been staring him right in the face the whole time. No matter what he did or where he went, he couldn't stop thinking about Naomi Kharmai.
Kealey had been sorting it through in his mind since the day she'd disappeared, trying to figure out what he could have said or done to stop her from leaving. It was hard to pick out the worst part about the whole situation. It was all bad, but some aspects were worse than others. When he thought about it honestly, it wasn't the fact that she had left that troubled him most. What really bothered him was her inability to face the past. The terrorist attack that nearly claimed her life the previous September had left her scarred in more ways than one, and while Kealey had done his best to help her through it, she had never fully recovered. At least not on the inside. In fact, the last time he'd seen her, she was still very much in denial.
It weighed heavily on him, and it was hard not to feel a sense of personal failure. If she had left because she needed more than what he had to offer, that would have been one thing. It would have been hard, but he could have dealt with it. What concerned him was that she might have gotten worse since walking out — that she might have spiraled further into her inner sanctum of guilt, grief, and depression. He didn't want to push her, but he would have given anything to hear her voice, if only to know that she was still alive.
Shifting the weight of the pack on his shoulders, Kealey crossed the dark gravel expanse of the parking lot, heading toward the hotel's main entrance. Stopping well short of the building's lights, he looked up and appraised the clear night sky. The stars had come out an hour earlier, and they were shockingly bright, given the dimly lit surrounding countryside. Svínafellsjökull towered behind the low-slung building, the glacier itself a dark silhouette against the deep navy backdrop. Ribbons of green light seemed to ripple and dance in the crisp, clean mountain air. The aurora borealis — better known as the northern lights — was something that he'd never seen before landing in Keflavík, and the sight was at once ethereal and incredibly eerie.
After admiring the view for a few minutes more, Kealey pulled open the door and nodded hello to the plump, smiling receptionist. She returned the gesture and went back to her crossword puzzle as he climbed the stairs, making his way up to the bar on the second floor. The worn oak doors were propped open, dim light flickering into the hall. Stepping into the room, he pulled off his wool knit watch cap, ran a hand through his lank black hair, and started toward the bar. The walls were paneled in pale oak, uninspired prints hanging around the room and above the fireplace, where a small fire was burning. The dark green couches, shiny with wear, complemented the worn carpet perfectly, and burgundy velvet drapes hung behind the bar itself, where a morose young man stood guard behind the small selection of taps. Kealey had just finished ordering a beer when he sensed movement over by one of the large windows. He turned and stared for a few seconds, appraising the solitary figure. Then he lifted a hand in cautious greeting. Turning back to the bar, he revised his order, his mind racing. Less than a minute later he was walking across the room, a pint glass in each hand, wondering what might have brought this particular visitor halfway around the world.
Jonathan Harper was seated with his back to the wall, his right foot hooked casually over his left knee. He was dressed in dark jeans, Merrell hiking boots, and a gray V-neck sweater, but despite his youthful attire, the deputy DCI — the second-highest-ranking official in the Central Intelligence Agency — looked far older than his forty-three years. His neat brown hair was just starting to gray at the temples, but his face was gaunt, and his skin was shockingly pale. His mannerisms were even more noticeable. He seemed shaky and slightly guarded, but also resigned, like an old man who senses the end is near. All of this was to be expected, though, and Kealey knew it could have been worse. In truth, the man was extremely lucky to still be alive.
Kealey placed the beers on the water-stained table, shrugged off his jacket, and slid into the opposite seat. They appraised each other for a long moment. Finally, Harper offered a slight smile and extended a hand, which the younger man took.
"Good to see you, Ryan. It's been a long time."
"I suppose so," Kealey said. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms in a casual way. "About seven months, I guess. When did you get here?"
"I flew into Keflavík this morning, but the bus only arrived a few hours ago."
"Sorry to keep you waiting. How have you been?"
"Not bad, all things considered." Harper took a short pull on his lager, coughed sharply, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "The doctors are happy enough, so I guess that's something."
"She's fine. I think she secretly enjoys having a patient again, though she'd never admit it."
"Knowing her, it wouldn't surprise me at all," Kealey replied. He knew that Harper's wife had worked for years as a head nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, one of the best hospitals in the country. The smile faded from his face as he debated going forward with his next question. Finally, he went ahead and asked it.
"What about Jane Doe? Any luck on that front?"
"Not a thing. I'm starting to think we'll never find her. Even if we did, it's not like we could hand her over to the FBI. There just isn't enough evidence to charge her with anything. They never found the gun, you know."
Kealey nodded slowly. Eight months earlier, the newly appointed deputy director had narrowly survived an assassination attempt in Washington, D.C. The attack had taken place on the front step of his brownstone on General's Row, just as he was stretching after his morning run. Harper had been facing away from his armed assailant when the first shot was fired. The .22-caliber round penetrated his lower back, then ricocheted off the third rib and up through the right lung. The second and third rounds had torn into his upper arm as he turned toward the shooter, and the fourth had punched a hole in his chest, missing his heart by less than an inch.
The woman had been moving forward as she fired, and by the time the fourth round left the muzzle of her gun, she was less than 10 feet from her target. As she approached to fire the fatal shot, a D.C. Metro police cruiser had squealed to a halt on Q Street, lights flashing. The police officer's arrival on the scene had been pure chance, nothing but luck, but it had saved the deputy director's life. The woman fired at the officer as he stepped out of the vehicle, killing him instantly, but the distraction gave Julie Harper — who had been making coffee when the first shots were fired — the chance to open the door and pull her husband inside to safety.
Unfortunately, the would-be assassin managed to escape in the ensuing chaos, even though the Metro Police Department was able to seal off the surrounding streets with astonishing speed. What followed was one of the largest manhunts in U.S. history, but despite the enormous resources it had thrown into the search, the government had yet to track her down.
The CIA had looked harder and longer than anyone else, of course, and in time, they'd managed to dig up a few tenuous leads. "Jane Doe" had been involved with a former Special Forces soldier named William Vanderveen. In 1997, while on deployment in Syria, Vanderveen had made the decision to sell his skills to some of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations. From that point forward, he'd earned — through countless acts of cold-blooded murder — his status as one of the most wanted men in the world. The connection between Vanderveen and the would-be assassin was based on photographs taken in London by Britain's Security Service, MI5. The men who took the shots were assigned to "A" branch, Section 4, the "Five" unit tasked with domestic surveillance. The shots showed Vanderveen and the unknown woman walking side by side in the heart of the city, but despite the excellent image resolution, the photographs had proved useless. The Agency's facial recognition software had failed to find a reliable match in the database. MI5, the French DGSE, and the Israeli Mossad had also come up empty, as had a number of other friendly intelligence services.
In other words, the woman was a black hole, a nonentity. Kealey knew how much it bothered Harper that she'd never been caught, but as he'd just said, there had been no progress on that front. This realization brought Kealey to his next point.
"John, it's good to see you again, but what exactly are you doing here?"
The deputy director didn't respond right away. Instead, he picked up his beer and swirled the contents thoughtfully.
"I'm surprised to hear you ask me that first," he finally said. "I thought you might be wondering how I found you." He looked up and studied the younger man. "You know, I have a few questions of my own. For instance, I'd like to know why you haven't set foot on U.S. soil in two and a half months. I mean, I spend half that time looking for you, and when I finally catch up, I find you ..." He trailed off and lifted his arms, as if to include the whole country.
There was an unspoken question there, but Kealey wasn't sure how to answer it. When he'd set out three months earlier, it was without a plan. Without a real idea of what he was looking for. But whatever it was, he'd found it on the alpine tundra and the vast, seemingly endless ice fields of Iceland. He'd found it in Alaska, Tanzania, Patagonia, and all the other places he'd seen in recent months. For lack of a better word, it was solitude, the kind of terrain where one could walk for days without hearing a sound other than the wind. It was what he had wanted at the time — what he still wanted, to a certain degree — and he couldn't explain why. Naomi's disappearance had played a role, but that was only part of it. Something else had instilled in him the desire to get away from it all, though he had yet to identify the secondary cause for his restless behavior.
"I'd also like to know where you picked up a French passport in the name of Joseph Briand," Harper continued. He paused expectantly. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to volunteer the information."
Kealey gave a wan smile, and that was answer enough.
"I didn't think so. It's funny, seeing how you don't even speak French. A Saudi passport would have been far more —"
"Comment savez-vous que je ne parle pas français?"
"Okay, so you speak a little French." The older man couldn't conceal a small, fleeting smile of his own. "It's good to see you're expanding your horizons."
"Just trying to keep my mind active."
"Sounds like you're ready to return to the ranks."
"Not in this lifetime." Kealey shook his head and looked away. "And if that's why you're here, John, you're wasting your time. I'm not interested. I've done my part."
"We've already played this game, Ryan, on more occasions than I care to recall. You say the same thing every time, but when it comes down to the wire, you always —"
"I meant it when I said it before," the younger man shot back. "And I mean it now." His face tightened suddenly, his dark eyes retreating to some hidden point in the past. "I just didn't walk away when I should have. That was my biggest mistake. There was always something else that had to be done. Before it was Vanderveen, and at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. But you know what it cost me to track him down, and then last year, with Naomi ..."
Harper nodded slowly, his face assuming a somber expression. "I know what it cost you, Ryan, and I know what it cost Naomi." He hesitated, then said, "You may not believe this, but I personally advised the president against bringing you into this matter. I told him everything you just said to me. I told him that you've done your part. That you wouldn't be interested. He didn't want to hear a word. After what you did in New York last year, he won't have it any other way. As far as David Brenneman is concerned, you're the first and only choice, at least when it comes to the current situation."
"And you couldn't say no to the president," Kealey said sarcastically. "Is that it?" He didn't bother asking what "the current situation" was; simply put, he didn't care to know.
"That's part of it," Harper conceded. "But there's another reason you need to be involved, and once you hear me out, I think you'll feel the same way."
Kealey studied the older man for a long moment without speaking. Jonathan Harper was one of the smartest people he knew, but he could also be extremely manipulative. They had known each other for nearly a decade, ever since Harper had first "sheep-dipped" him for an off-the-books assignment in Syria. "Sheep-dipping" was a term that referred to the temporary recruitment of active-duty soldiers for "black," or deniable, operations. Usually, the CIA had a hand in the process, and Kealey's first task was no exception. At the time he had been a captain in the U.S. Army's 3rd Special Forces Group, and that assignment — the assassination of a senior Islamic militant — had changed him forever, as well as putting him on the path to a new career.
Since then, he and Harper had become good friends, but the job always came first, and Kealey knew the other man wouldn't hesitate to impose on their relationship. He had done it before, and Kealey had always been up to the task. He wanted to refuse this time and knew he would have been justified in doing so. But while the older man's face was as implacable as ever, there was something in his tone that gave Kealey pause. He could tell there was more to the current situation than Harper was letting on, and that made the decision for him.
"Okay," he said. "I'll hear what you have to say, but I'm not committing to anything. Let's get that straight from the start." Kealey lifted his glass and drained the contents. "What's this about, anyway?"
Harper pushed a plain manila folder across the table, then rose and collected their empty glasses. "Read through that, and then we'll talk."
Excerpted from The Invisible by ANDREW BRITTON. Copyright © 2008 Andrew Britton. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
CHAPTER 1 ORAEFI, ICELAND,
CHAPTER 2 ORAEFI,
CHAPTER 3 ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 4 ORAEFI,
CHAPTER 5 ISLAMABAD,
CHAPTER 6 RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 7 RAWALPINDI,
CHAPTER 8 RAWALPINDI,
CHAPTER 9 ICELAND,
CHAPTER 10 RAWALPINDI,
CHAPTER 11 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 12 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 13 MADRID, SPAIN,
CHAPTER 14 MADRID,
CHAPTER 15 MADRID,
CHAPTER 16 SIALKOT, PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 17 MADRID,
CHAPTER 18 MADRID,
CHAPTER 19 MADRID,
CHAPTER 20 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 21 WASHINGTON, D.C. LAHORE, PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 22 CARTAGENA, SPAIN,
CHAPTER 23 CARTAGENA,
CHAPTER 24 SIALKOT CARTAGENA,
CHAPTER 25 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 26 CARTAGENA,
CHAPTER 27 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 28 CARTAGENA,
CHAPTER 29 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 30 LAHORE,
CHAPTER 31 PUNJAB PROVINCE, PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 32 LANGLEY, VIRGINIA,
CHAPTER 33 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 34 NORTHERN PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 35 NORTHERN PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 36 FAISALABAD,
CHAPTER 37 WASHINGTON, D.C. NORTHERN PAKISTAN,
CHAPTER 38 SIALKOT SOUTHERN PORTUGAL,
CHAPTER 39 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 40 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 41 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 42 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 43 WASHINGTON, D.C. SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 44 SIALKOT,
CHAPTER 45 WASHINGTON, D.C.,
CHAPTER 46 PUERTO SAN JULIÁN, ARGENTINA, FIVE MONTHS LATER,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Being female and not that interested in military hardware, I found some of the descriptions/information about weapons, places a bit tedious.
Excellent writer. I will miss his works. I also recommend Michael Connelly.
As a lover of political and military thrillers, this book was right up there with the best. As the third in the series, it lived up to expectations and more. The characters are three dimensional and the plot is thick with intrigue and twists. Britton is a brilliant author, especially considering his young age. I highly recommend this book!
The Invisible holds no surprises as it is a pretty standard tale of an action hero who follows his own rules. I liked it better than Britton's previous book The Assassin, and can recommend it for airport and beach readers who just want an interesting tale to fill the time.
I could not put the book down. The action was non stop. Ryan Kelley is a true American hero.
I am very much enjoying the exploits of Ryan Kealey. To me he calls to mind a hybrid of Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath, with a smidgen of Jason Bourne tossed in. He always gets the job done but, he hasn't done it cleanly even once yet. He is a terribly enjoyable character. If you like action and intrigue on an international scale, this series is for you!
A real thriller complex but unnderstandable hard to put down a very excellent read