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On the eve of a vital CIA assignment, an agent’s hesitation leads him to the brink of disaster
His grandfather was a lawman too. That’s how Charles O’Farrell rationalizes his work. He keeps a picture of his ancestor by his bed, a faded sepia portrait of a short, plain-looking man made remarkable only by the long-barreled Colt strapped to his hip. His grandfather killed to make the frontier safe—O’Farrell has the faded newspaper clippings to prove it. In the service of America, O’Farrell kills too. But his killings never make the front page. A trained CIA assassin, O’Farrell lives like a machine, operating according to a perfect routine because routine keeps him sharp. Routine keeps killers from getting killed. But now, as he readies his next hit, a terrible twist will disrupt his once meticulous process. Doubt has begun to creep into Charles O’Farrell’s mind, and in a business where even the smallest hesitation can spell certain death, doubt is very dangerous indeed. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Brian Freemantle including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Brian Freemantle (b. 1936) is one of Britain’s most acclaimed authors of spy fiction. His novels have sold over ten million copies worldwide. Born in Southampton, Freemantle entered his career as a journalist, and began writing espionage thrillers in the late 1960s. Charlie M (1977) introduced the world to Charlie Muffin and won Freemantle international success. He would go on to publish fourteen titles in the series. Freemantle has written dozens of other novels, including two about Sebastian Holmes, an illegitimate son of Sherlock Holmes, and the Cowley and Danilov series, about a Russian policeman and an American FBI agent who work together to combat organized crime in the post–Cold War world. Freemantle lives and works in Winchester, England.
Read an Excerpt
By Brian Freemantle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1990 Brian Freemantle
All rights reserved.
Even in the guaranteed security of his Alexandria home, it was instinctive, far beyond any training, for Charles O'Farrell to awaken as he did: eyes closed, breathing deeply as if he were still asleep, listening first. Always essential to listen first, to be sure. Around him the house remained early-morning quiet, the only sound the soft, bubbled breathing of Jill, still genuinely slumbering beside him. Safe then. O'Farrell opened his eyes but did not move his head. It wasn't necessary for the initial ritual.
The bedroom cabinet with the photograph was directly in his line of sight. Except when he was on sudden overseas assignments, when it would have been unthinkable to risk such a prized possession, the photograph was invariably O'Farrell's first sight in this unmoving, safety-checking moment of awakening. Just as at night, usually while Jill was making dinner, he went to the den to look over the cracked and yellowing newspaper cuttings of the archive he was creating. With just one martini, of course, the one a day he allowed himself. Well, normally just one. Sometimes two. Rarely more.
The way the newsprint was deteriorating worried him, like the fading of the photograph from brown sepia into pale pink worried him. It would be easy enough to get the cuttings copied, although a lot of the special feeling—the impression, somehow, of being there—would go if they were transferred onto sterile, hard, modern paper. Essential that he do it, though, if he were to preserve what he had so far managed to assemble. He'd need advice on how to save the picture. Copied again, he supposed. O'Farrell was even more reluctant to do that: there would definitely be a loss of atmosphere if the treasured image were transferred to some glossy, up-to-the-minute print.
There was no detail in that stiffly posed souvenir of frontier America that O'Farrell did not know intimately, could not have traced, if he'd wanted to, with his eyes shut. Sometimes, on those foreign assignments, that was precisely how O'Farrell did conjure into his mind the picture of his great-grandfather, allowing his imagination to soften the sharp outlines, even fantasizing the squeak of ungreased wagon wheels and the snorts of impatient horses and—only very occasionally—the snap of a shot.
O'Farrell knew there would have been such snapping echoes (why did a pistol shot never sound the way it was supposed to sound, always an inconsequential pop instead of a life-taking blast?) because the cuttings from the Scott City journal that at the moment formed the basis of his archive recorded six shoot-outs from which the man had emerged the victor. There would have been much more shooting, of course; the six had been reported because people had died, but O'Farrell knew there would have been other confrontations. Had to have been. Law was rare and resented in Kansas then, and anyone attempting to enforce it was more likely to be challenged than to be obeyed.
Objectively, the aged photograph hardly showed a man to be obeyed. There was nothing in the background of the photographic studio to provide a proper comparison, but the man appeared to be quite short—maybe just a little shorter than O'Farrell himself—and slightly built, like O'Farrell again. The stature was accentuated in the picture by the long-barreled Colt. It was holstered high and tight against his great-grandfather's waist, a necessary tool of his trade, not low-slung and thonged from the bottom around his leg, like those in preposterous Hollywood portrayals. Properly carried, as it was in the photograph, it appeared altogether too. large and heavily out of proportion. But for the gun, it would have been impossible to guess what job the man held. He'd obviously dressed for the portrait: the trousers of his waist-coated, high-buttoned suit worn over his boots, tie tightly knotted into a hard-starched collar, hat squarely, almost comically perched on his head. Why, wondered O'Farrell, hadn't his great-grandfather worn his marshal's badge? It was a recurring question that O'Farrell had never resolved. He doubted his late father's suggestion that it had been a retirement photograph. Currently the last of the fragile cuttings, an obituary of his great-grandfather's peaceful death—in bed—at the age of seventy-six, also reported his quitting as a lawman when he was sixty. And he certainly didn't look sixty in the photograph; somewhere between forty-five and fifty. Maybe forty-six. My age, thought O'Farrell; he liked to think so. Personal comparisons were very important.
O'Farrell moved at last, turning away from the bedside cabinet to look at Jill. She shifted slightly with his movement but didn't awake. A skein of hair, hairdresser-blonded now because of the hint of grayness, strayed across her forehead. Very gently O'Farrell reached out to push it back, but paused with his hand in front of himself. No shake, he saw, gratefully. Well, hardly; no more than the minimal twitch to be expected from his lying in such an awkward position; wouldn't be there at all when he got up. Continuing the gesture, O'Farrell succeeded in rearranging his wife's hair without disturbing her. Worrying over nothing, he told himself. Which was the problem. Why was this feeling of uncertainly constantly with him? And growing?
He eased cautiously from the bed, wanting Jill to sleep on, but hesitated before the cabinet. It was definitely impossible without the gun to imagine his ancestor as a law man. Even more difficult to believe him to have been someone to be obeyed. Or capable of shooting another man. But then it was never possible to judge from appearances whether one man could kill another.
Charles O'Farrell knew that better than most.
Until the official opening by President Kennedy in 1961 of its headquarters at Langley, just off the Washington Memorial Parkway, America's Central Intelligence Agency was housed piecemeal at 2430 E Street NW, in barracks alongside the Reflecting Pool and in wooden buildings behind the Heurich Brewery. Not everything was brought conveniently to one location by that 1961 presidential ceremony, however.
The security needs of the Agency's most secret divisions actually dictated that they should remain outside its identifiable headquarters, and its most secret division of all was kept in Washington, on two floors of an office building just off Lafayette Park, to maintain a physical distance between the CIA, a recognized agency of the U.S. government, and a part of that agency determinedly unrecognized. Its existence was known only to a very few men. Required under oath to admit that the Agency possessed such a facility—at congressional inquiries, like those, for instance, that shattered the morale of the CIA in the mid-1970s—those men would have lied, careless of perjury, because their questioners were insufficiently cleared at the required level to receive such intelligence. The division, created after those mid-seventies congressional embarrassments, fit the phrase that became public during those hearings. It was "plausible deniability."
The division came under the hidden authority of the CIA's Plans Directorate. It was run by two men who worked on completely equal terms, although George Petty was accorded the title of director, with Donald Erickson defined as deputy. Each was a third-generation American who believed implicitly in the correctness and the morality of what they did, an essential mental attitude for every constantly monitored employee.
"It's O'Farrell's medical today," Erickson said. He was a tall, spare man with hair so thin and fair that he appeared practically bald. By standing at the window of their fifth-floor office suite, he was just able to look across the park to the White House he considered himself to be protecting. It was a favorite stance and an unshakable conviction.
"I know," George Petty said.
"Have you spoken to the doctor?"
Petty was a heavy, towering man who appeared slightly hunchbacked from his tendency to bring his head forward, like a turtle emerging from its shell. He did not reply at once, making much of filling the ornate bowl of his pipe with a sweet-smelling tobacco and tamping it into a firm base once he got it lighted. He said, "I didn't consider it wise."
"Why not?" asked Erickson, turning back into the room.
"It has to be his opinion, without any influence from us," Petty said.
Erickson nodded. "Probably right," he agreed at once.
"O'Farrell's a good man."
"One of the best," said Erickson.CHAPTER 2
It was more a mansion than a house, a huge granite-fronted building with Colonial pillars set back in at least three unfenced acres off one of those tree-lined roads that wind up through Chevy Chase toward the border with Maryland. The doctor personally admitted him, so quickly the man might have been waiting on the other side of the door. There was no noise anywhere to indicate anyone else in the house: there never had been, on any of the visits. O'Farrell followed the other man familiarly across the black-and-white marbled floor to the side consulting room. There was no medical staff here, either, unlike the man's downtown clinic, which was one of the most comprehensively manned medical centers in Washington. But then that was public and this was private: very private indeed.
"How's it going?" the doctor asked. His name was Hugh Symmons. He was a thin, prominently boned man who had conducted O'Farrell's three-monthly examinations for the past four years. Despite having one of the highest security clearances as a CIA medical adviser, Symmons was kept from knowing O'Farrell's real function, merely that it was a position imposing the maximum mental and physical stress. O'Farrell was aware there were other psychologists and psychiatrists with even higher clearances, the real tidy-up-your-head experts, who would be allowed to know his job: the fact that he was still at Symmons's level proved that no one had discerned his uncertainty.
"Fine," said O'Farrell.
Symmons waved him to an accustomed seat and opened a thumbed file and sat reading it, as if O'Farrell were a first-time patient. O'Farrell, who was used to the routine, gazed through the picture window to the expansive lawn. There were a lot of carefully maintained trees in the garden, several long-haired gray firs with branches sweeping down to touch the grass. Groups of squirrels scurried around their bases and there were others in the branches, and O'Farrell was surprised. He understood squirrels damaged trees and would have expected Symmons to employ some sort of pest control. O'Farrell, whose training had involved extensive psychological instruction, was glad of the reflection: just what he should be doing, musing unimportant thoughts to minimize the risk of anxiety. Was Symmons taking longer than usual? There was no benefit in posing unnecessary questions. O'Farrell checked his watch. Jill would be at the remedial center by now. A busy day, she'd predicted, at breakfast: eight patients at least. O'Farrell was glad his wife had gone back to physiotherapy now the kids had left home: gave her a proper outside interest and prevented her becoming bored. More unimportant musing, O'Farrell recognized, gratefully: not that he considered Jill unimportant in any way. He sometimes believed that was how she regarded him, though: secretly, of course, never any open accusation. He wished she didn't. But it must be difficult for her to accept his supposedly being an accounts clerk, knowing as she did of his Special Forces beginning.
O'Farrell turned away from the window as Symmons looked up at last. "Time to play games," the man announced.
O'Farrell got up and went to the side table, wondering what the sequence would be today: it was necessary for Symmons to vary the psychological assessment to prevent his being able automatically to complete the tests. O'Farrell realized it was to be physical coordination and judgment as Symmons began setting out the differently shaped blocks and wood bases.
"Three minutes," the doctor said.
Two less than normal. Why the reduced completion span? No time to speculate: he only had three minutes. O'Farrell curbed the nervousness, feeling out in apparent control to fit the shapes correctly into their receiving places. They were different from any he had used before, again necessary to prevent his becoming accustomed. More difficult, he determined; he was sure they were more difficult. Some were carved and shaped almost identically and he made three consecutive mistakes before matching them to the board, in his frustration once almost dropping a piece. Careful, he told himself. Stupid to become frustrated and panicked. Exactly how the test was devised to make him behave. So exactly why he had to do the opposite. There were still two pieces unconnected when Symmons said, "Stop!"
He had failed before to complete fully, O'Farrell reassured himself. On several occasions, in fact: but not for a long time. It didn't matter: by itself it didn't matter at all.
"A bitch this time, eh?" Symmons suggested.
O'Farrell knew there was no remark, no apparent aside, that was insignificant during these sessions. He smiled and said, "Next time we'll set up side bets." That sounded good enough, someone unworried by a minor setback.
"Let's try some words now."
O'Farrell folded one hand casually over the other, crossing his legs as he did so, wanting to appear relaxed. It gave him the opportunity to feel for any wetness in his palms. No sweat at all, he decided, relieved.
"Mother," set off Symmons, abruptly.
"Disaster." Why this beginning? Symmons knew the story, but they hadn't talked about it for a long time.
"Peace," responded O'Farrell, at once. Why violence, of all words?
"Dishonor." The trigger words were not supposed to be connected but there was a link here, surely?
"Boat." Easier, thought O'Farrell.
"Debt." Why the hell had he said that! He wasn't in debt—had never been in debt—but the answer could indicate he had financial difficulties.
"Patriot." Which was sincerely how he felt about himself: the justification—no, the solid basis—for much of what he did. All of what he did, in fact.
"Bone." Nothing wrong that time.
"Obscenity." Another change from normal: O'Farrell couldn't remember Symmons swearing before.
"Cup." It caught O'Farrell as absurd and he came dangerously close to laughing, only just managing to subdue a reaction he knew to be wrong. Nothing insignificant, he thought again.
"Son." Saturday tomorrow: the day for the weekly call to John. Stop drifting! No room now for inconsequential intrusions.
"Russia." It had to do with his mother!
"Crime." Another link, to the first two words, surely!
"Weapon." And again! O'Farrell thought he could feel some dampness on his hands now.
"Punishment." Damn! The man had meant "capitol."
Death was the first word that entered O'Farrell's mind, the reply he should have given according to the rules of the examination. Cheating, he said, "Baby."
"Enemy." Could have done better there.
"Kill" was the word but O'Farrell didn't say it: his mind wouldn't produce a substitute and Symmons said, "Quicker! You're not allowed to consider the responses! You know that! Hang."
"Wrong." Why the hell had he said that; it didn't even make sense! O'Farrell hoped the perspiration wasn't obvious on his face.
"Protector." Better: much better.
"Justice." Damn again! Why hadn't he said someming like "words" or "book"!
"Destroy." How he felt. But maybe there should have been a different reply. It sounded like a piece of dialogue from one of those ridiculous revenge films where the hero bulged wim muscles and glistened with oil and could take out twenty opponents with a flick of his wrist without disarranging his hairstyle.
Once more O'Farrell stopped short of the instinctive response—"absolute"—but without the hesitation that had brought about the previous rebuke. He said, "Resolution."
Symmons raised both hands in a warding-off gesture and said, "Okay. Enough!"
Excerpted from O'Farrell's Law by Brian Freemantle. Copyright © 1990 Brian Freemantle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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