The explosive short story launch for the new novel LAST DAYS OF THE CONDOR
"They led him out of the CIA's secret insane asylum as the sun set over autumn's forest there in Maine."
Led him into a modern American nightmare any of us could face.
But he's a legend, a silver-haired man codenamed Condor, a classic American hero in his first appearance since Watergate, on his way in this prequel to the upcoming novel, LAST DAYS OF THE CONDOR. And it's all about the price he's forced to pay to get there.
Award-winning short story author, screenwriter and novelist James Grady delivers a bullet-paced, savage journey with the iconic character he created and that Robert Redford made an international sensation in the movie THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Love, sex, loyalty, honor and savagery loosed in our modern world electrify this novella, a portrait of heroism and horror and America beyond 9/11. It is an espionage adventure unlike anything you've ever read.
"Grady is to spy novels as the great Elmore Leonard was to crime fiction," says Pulitzer Prize winning author Kai Bird, while John Grisham calls Grady: "A master of intrigue."
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
James Grady is the author of bestselling thrillers including Six Days of the Condor and Mad Dogs, the former of which became the Robert Redford movie Three Days of the Condor. He is the recipient of the Grand Prix du Roman Noir (France) and the Raymond Chandler Award (Italy), and was an Edgar nominee in the United States. Grady now lives in Washington, D.C.
Read an Excerpt
Next Day of the Condor
By James Grady, Joshua Wolff
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 James Grady
All rights reserved.
They led him out of the CIA's secret insane asylum as the sun set over autumn's forest there in Maine.
Brian and Doug walked on either side of him, Brian a half-step back on the right, the package's strong side, because even when there'll be no problem, it pays to be prepared beyond a government salary you can only collect if you're still alive.
Brian and Doug seemed pleasant. Younger, of course, with functional yet fashionable short hair. Doug sported stubble that tomorrow could let him blend into Kabul with little more than a shemagh head wrap and minor clothing adjustments from the American mall apparel he wore today. Brian and Doug introduced themselves to the package at the Maine castle's front security desk. He hoped their mission was to take him where they said he was supposed to go and not to some deserted ditch in the woods.
Two sets of footsteps walked behind him and his escorts, but in what passes for our reality, he could only hear the walker with the clunky shoes. The soundless steps made more powerful cosmic vibrations.
The clunky shoes belonged to Dr. Quinton, who'd succeeded the murdered Dr. Friedman and mandated Performance Protocols to replace the patient-centric approach of his predecessor, policies that hadn't gotten that psychiatrist ice picked through his ear, but why not use that tragic opportunity to institute a new approach of accountability?
After all, you can't be wrong if you've got the right numbers.
The soundless steps are the scruffy sneakers footfalls of blonde nurse Vicki.
She wore electric red lipstick.
And her wedding band linked to her high school sweetheart who like every day for the last eight years lay in a Bangor Veterans Home bed tubed & cabled to beeping machines tracking the flatline of his brain waves and his heart that refused to surrender.
The beating of that heart haunts the soft steps of she who no one really knows.
Except for the silver-haired man walking ahead of her from this secret castle.
And he's nuts, so ...
The dimming of the day activates sensors in the castle's walled parking lot where these five public servants emerge. Brian and Doug steer the parade toward a "van camper," gray metal and tinted black glass side windows, small enough to parallel park, big enough for "road living" behind two cushioned chairs facing the sloped windshield. Utah license plates lied with their implication of not a government ride.
Doug said: "October used to be colder."
Brian eyed the package's scruffy black leather jacket. Seems like a nice enough guy, moves better than his silver hair might make you think.
Doug slid open the van's side rear door with a whirring rumble. Lights came on in the rear interior with built-in beds on each side of a narrow aisle.
Brian said: "How we going to do this?"
Dr. Quinton took a step—
Stopped by Nurse Vicki, who thrust one hand at the psychiatrist's chest and used her other to pluck the purse-like black medical case from his grasp.
"This is still America," said Vicki. "No dictators."
Dr. Quinton blinked but she was beyond that, standing in front of the package with the cobalt blue eyes, looking straight at him as she said: "Are you ready?"
"Does that matter?"
Her ruby smile said yes, said no.
He spoke to both her and the two soft clothes soldiers: "Where do you want me?"
"Like she said," answered Doug, "it's a free country. Pick either bed."
The package chose the slab on the shotgun seat's side of the van because it was less likely to catch a bullet crashing through the windshield to take out the driver.
Nurse Vicki entered the van behind him.
Said: "You need to take your jacket off."
"Might be more comfortable to stay that way," called Brian as he climbed behind the steering wheel and slammed the driver's door shut.
The black leather jacket had been his before, but now the inner pocket over his heart held a laboratory-aged wallet with never-used I.D.'s and credit cards. Felt sad to take off his old friend the black leather jacket. Felt good to shed its weight of new lies.
He wore a long-sleeved, suitable for an office blue shirt over black long-sleeved, thermal underwear suitable for the autumn forest. Fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. Sensed the nurse resisting helping him pull off the thermal underwear.
He sat on the bed. Naked from the waist up. Shivered, maybe from the evening chill, maybe from the proximity of a red-lipped younger woman.
Who couldn't help herself, cared about who she was and was a nurse, stared at his scars but there was nothing she could do for them now, for him, she was not that able.
She unzipped the medical bag that opened like the jaws of a trap: one side held hypodermic needles, alcohol and swabs, the other side held pill bottles.
"You already took your final dose of meds back in the ward," she said.
"I took what they gave me. Hope that's not final ".
Crimson lips curled in a smile. Tears shimmered her green eyes.
He said: "I'm glad it's you giving me the needle."
"'Had to be," she whispered.
Swabbed his bare left shoulder.
Slid the needle into his flesh.
Pushed the plunger.
Said: "Not long now."
He dressed, stood to tuck his shirts into his black jeans.
Nurse Vicki turned down the blanket on the rack he'd chosen.
"Might want to keep your shoes on," said Doug from outside the van.
The package stretched out on his back, pillow under his head.
"Just a tip," said Doug. "Straps first is more comfortable."
Vicki—made it through night school working as a grocery checker and sitting vigil beside a hospital bed where the patient never stirred —Vicki fastened Safety Straps across the prone man, tucked the blanket over him to his chin, knew he could have been her father, knew she could have made him one, knew that wasn't—isn't —what mattered or what decided what was never going to be more than stolen heartbeats of rebellion and escape, comfort and yearning, the fever of beasts.
Let it go. Let it go.
"Do you remember the new name you picked?" she asked him. "NotCondor."
"How can I not be who I am?"
"That's part of the deal to get you out of here. Back to the real world."
"So that's where I'm going." His smile was sly.
"So they tell me." Her smile was honest. "Who are you, Condor?"
"V for Vicki," she said, like it was nothing.
"Yes," he lied to let her have everything he could give.
She pressed her crimson lips to his mouth: Last kiss.
Floated out of the van, a blur of white, the night spinning as Doug whirred the side door closed, climbed into the shotgun seat, slammed his door thunk.
Condor, Vin, whoever he was dropped into a black hole.
Drugged sleep. Flashes of sight, of sound, dreams in a heartbeat rhythm.
... white stripes flick through a night road's headlights ...
... Springsteen guitars State Trooper ...
... beeping machines web a hollow Marine to a hospital bed ...
... naked thighs straining yes yes yes ...
... snap-clack of a chambering .45 ...
... red lips ...
... Arab Spring crowds: "Lib-er-te! Lib-er-te!" ...
... footsteps behind you on Paris cobblestones ...
... the mailman clings to his pouch ...
... drone's view of a rushing closer city square ...
... plopped on a closet toilet, no pants, some guy saying, "OK, here you go" ...
... walk into the alley, a friend waves you forward ...
JOLT. Awake. He felt himself ... awake. Sunlight through black glass windows.
Blink and you're flat on your back on a bed in a van. That's stopped.
Coffee, that wondrous rich aroma.
"OK, man," said ... Doug, his name is Doug. "Straps are off. Sit up, have a cup of the good stuff from inside."
Inside where? Where am I?
He sipped coffee cut with milk from a paper cup logoed: 'bucks!
"You gotta go again?" said Brian from the behind the wheel of the parked van. "We took you in the middle of the night, but ... Hey, you're a guy that age and your med' reports say—score, by the way! The daily use pill with the TV commercial of the man and woman sitting in side by side bathtubs."
"Let's get you together before we meet the world," said Doug.
The Special Ops guys let him cram himself into the closet bathroom.
"Remember," Doug said through the closed bathroom door: "Your name is Vin."
After he flushed the van toilet—Such a weird concept! —Doug met him in the cramped aisle between the beds. Passed him a paper cup of pills to help him forget what he wasn't supposed to remember and act like he believed what other people saw.
A plastic bag labeled "For Our Forgetful Guests!" that had been repurposed from a Los Angeles hotel waited beside the metal sink. The bag held a disposable toothbrush and a tiny tube of toothpaste trademarked with a notorious TV cartoon squirrel.
"We figured," said Doug, "feel fresh for a fresh start."
Brian called out from behind the van's steering wheel: "Don't be impressed, he's had the whole ride here to think of that one."
Mouthful of minty toothpaste.
The sink faucet worked—Amazing! He rinsed, spit.
Raised his eyes to the metal plate polished to reflect like a mirror.
Saw a silver-haired, craggy & scarred faced, blue-eyed man staring back at him.
Whispered: "Your name is Vin."
Radio Voice from the van's dashboard:
"—is it for this edition of Rush Hour Rundown on New Jersey Public Radio, but throughout the day, stories we'll be following include attempts to bring Occupy Wall Street movements to middle America, life after Gadhafi in war-torn Libya, the last days of that Ohio zookeeper who freed his wild animals and then killed himself, and the billionaire brothers who've bought a chunk of America's politics, plus the latest actor to play Superman talks about his divorce from the, um, generously proportioned socialite hired by reality TV to play someone like herself, and one of our only two surviving Beatles is getting married—again. Finally, remember: today we're supposed to be terrified. Go forth in fear."
"Coming up, the third in our six-part series on how climate change—"
Click, off went the radio as Brian turned: "Did you say something?"
Doug held out the black leather jacket to Vin, said: "You ready to go?"
Then slid open the van's rear compartment side door and with the nostalgia of a paratrooper, hopped out into the rush of cool gray sunshine.
The silver-haired man put on his black leather jacket.
Stepped out into the light.
I'm in a parking lot.
Low gray sky, cool sun glistening on rows of parked cars surrounding a tan cement, crouched dragon building. Waves of sound whooshing past.
Slouching from the dragon building came a trio of zombies.
"No fucking way!" muttered Vin, muttered Condor.
Zombies, but their make-up and costumes were so lame you could tell who they weren't.
"Happy Halloween," said Brian as he posted beside Vin.
The zombies climbed into a five-year-old car with New Jersey license plates.
Doug said: "Today, everybody else is in costume."
His partner shook his head: "Don't be impressed. He's had the whole ride to think of that one, too."
"Go figure," said Doug. "It's fucking 2011 and everywhere you look, zombies."
"If we've got zombies," said Condor, said Vin, "do you got guns?"
Call it a pause in the cool morning air.
Then Doug answered: "We're fully sanctioned."
Condor shrugged. "As long as what you're full of is sanction."
The Escort Operatives stared at him with eyes that were stone canyons.
"You expecting trouble?" said Brian.
"Always. Never." Condor shook his head. "My meds are supposed to suffocate expectations."
"You just need some breakfast," said Brian. "Stand here a minute, get your land legs under you, get your breath, then we'll get something to eat."
"Want to do T'ai chi ?" Doug gestured to a white gazebo in the corner of the parking lot. "Get your Form on?"
"That's not low-profile," said Vin, said Condor. "Citizens might think I'm weird."
"Really," said Brain. "That's what would make you seem weird?"
"Remember, Vin," said Doug: "We can do anything we want as long as nobody ever knows who we are. You know that's the heart and hard of any Op', so play it cool. Low key. Absolutely normal."
"Normal has been a problem."
"You're past that now," said Brian. "Remember?"
"Meanwhile," said Doug, "welcome to the Nick Logar Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike."
"Monday morning, Halloween, 2011," said Brian. "Zero-nine-three three."
Doug frowned. "Who was Nick Logar?"
"Who cares?" said Brian.
Condor surprised them: "Poet. Black & white movies days, tough times, people working hard to just hold on, rich guys on top even after the stock market crash, bad guys savaging the world. Kind of quirky getting a rest stop named after Nick Logar. Rebel politics, road crazy. But nobody likes to talk about that, just his Congressional Medal of Honor and Pulitzer Prize for poetry no one reads, except for that famous one that doesn't flap the flag like—God, it feels good to justtalk!"
"And look at you!" said Doug. "Got a lot to say and up on literature and shit."
"My first spy job was to know things like that."
Brian shrugged. "My first was a take-out in Tehran. We're not talking dinner."
"Let's talk breakfast," said Doug.
"Fuck talking," said Brian. "Let's eat."
The silver-haired man brushed his hands down the front of his black leather jacket, amateurishly revealing worry over not finding a gun hidden under there and thus implying that years of confinement had succeeded in making him not Condor but Vin.
"Chill," said Brian. "Everything's normal and OK. Just look."
Condor didn't tell his Escort Operative that normal and OK are not the same.
But he did look.
The parked gray van faced a chain link fence that made the north boundary of the rest stop. Beyond the fence, a yellowed marsh filled the median between Northbound and Southbound lanes of the Turnpike. The van sat closer to the Southbound lane, and that route's exit into the rest stop made a sloping hill behind the white gazebo.
The van's rear bumper faced four rows of cars parked in white striped spaces on the side of the rest stop's crouching dragon "facility" building, tan cement walls and a New Mexico meets Hong Kong green roof. The facility sat on a raised knoll to stay above rainwater runoff. Glass doors front & centered the facility, a dragon's face where a protruding tongue of concrete steps led down to the pavement between a mustache of two sloped ramps. The glass doors reflected the nearly full front parking lot.
People. Lots and lots of people.
A squat bleached blonde woman in a pink mohair sweater rummaged in her car's open trunk with one hand while her other held a straining leash clipped to the collar of a yippy terrier. The dog's and the bleached blonde's pink sweaters matched.
A young guy wearing a padded black costume, hip or horror, Condor couldn't tell, carried a brown paper sack as he walked toward the facility's rear and waiting green dumpsters below circling seagulls, plus the entrance to the Northbound road, the direction a mouse named Stuart Little took looking for love and a life to call his own.
A smiling family of Japanese tourists clustered together in the parking lot for pictures one of them took with a cell phone.
Call him twenty-four looking nineteen, baseball cap on backwards, gray sweatshirt, low slung blue jeans, sneakers shuffling toward the facility.
Two men in suits parked their dark-colored car.
A married couple who'd seen fifty in their rearview mirrors stepped out of their parked Chevy, slammed its doors and sighed as they shuffled in to use the bathrooms.
My next is now, thought Condor.
Brian said: "Let's get something before."
"Before what?" said Condor as his escorts walked him toward the facility.
Doug said: "Before your transfer ride shows up. Should have been here already."
"What about you guys?"
"Places to go," said Brian, "people to see."
"Is this the time you're going to do more than just see?" said Doug.
"Shut the fuck up," said his partner. Lovingly.
Three soda machines selling bottles and cans of caffeine & sugar & chemical concoctions stood sentinel near the ramp Condor and his escorts took to the glass front doors, past a bench where three probably just graduated high school girls sat, two of them wearing hajib headresses, all of them smoking cigarettes.
What struck Condor inside the rest stop facility was its atmosphere of closeness, of containment. The densely packed air smelled of ...
Of floor tiles. Crackling meat grease. Hot sugar. Lemon scented ammonia.
Ahead gaped entrances for MENS and LADIES rooms. The wall between the restrooms held a YOU ARE HERE map and a bronze plaque with lines of writing that travellers hurrying into the bathrooms only glanced at but Condor read:
Drive, drive on. These are the highways of our lives.
Dwell not on the sharp quiet madness of our collective soul.
Call us all New Jersey. Call us all Americans, as on we go alone together.
Off to Condor's left waited the gift shop, wall racks of celebrity magazines and candy, glass coolers with yet more cans of syrupy caffeine, displays of key chains dangling green plastic models of the Statue of Liberty, T-shirts and buttons that "hearted" New York, postcards that nobody mailed anymore.
Excerpted from Next Day of the Condor by James Grady, Joshua Wolff. Copyright © 2015 James Grady. 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.
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Table of Contents
Next Day of the Condor,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think this author was on drugs when he wrote this book. Pure nonsense.