Pinnacle Event: A Novel

Pinnacle Event: A Novel

by Richard A. Clarke

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250091826
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

RICHARD A. CLARKE served for thirty years in the United States Government, including an unprecedented ten continuous years as a White House official, serving three consecutive Presidents. In the White House he was Special Assistant to the President for Global Affairs, Special Advisor to the President for Cyberspace, and National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism.

Prior to his White House years, he served as a diplomat, including as Assistant Secretary of State and held other positions in the State Department and the Pentagon.

Since leaving government in 2003, Mr. Clarke has served as an on-air consultant for ABC News for ten years, taught at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for five years, managed a consulting firm, chaired the Board of Governors of the Middle East Institute, and written several books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the national number one bestseller Against All Enemies and Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It.

Read an Excerpt

Pinnacle Event

A Novel


By Richard A. Clarke

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2015 RAC Enterprises
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-4828-3


CHAPTER 1

MONDAY, AUGUST 15
GRINZING
VIENNA, AUSTRIA


Herman Strodmann rang the bell as he drove the first trolley of the day out of the little, end-of-the-line station at 0600. He loved driving the number 38 route because he could walk to work from his cottage, at the edge of the Vienna Woods, on the hill above the village of Grinzing. He walked by the house where Beethoven had written the Second Symphony. He thought of the 38 tram as a time machine, taking him in half an hour from the quaint, traditional wine stubels and heurigers of eighteenth-century Grinzing to the hectic modernity of downtown Vienna. He especially liked the first kilometer of the route, when the tram had its own railbed to the right of the road. On that stretch he did not have to share the street with cars.

There he could get the two-car trolley up to a decent speed. As he was doing just that, he noticed a blue BMW in his rear mirror.

The car was accelerating quickly up the Grinzinger Alle behind the tram. It was going to overtake him quickly, Strodmann thought. What was the rush so early in the morning? As the tram approached the corner of Hungerbergstrasse, the exclusive railbed ended and Strodmann guided the trolley on to the street. As he did, for a second he lost sight of the BMW. Then, suddenly, it was veering right in front of the tram, aiming into the Daringergasse. Herman Strodmann hit the brakes just as the trolley smashed into the BMW and rode up over it, crushing the passenger compartment.

In seconds, the BMW 525 erupted into an orange ball of flame shooting twenty-five feet in the air. The flame scorched the windows around the trolley driver's seat and leaped in the small, open side window, giving Herman Strodmann second-degree burns on his left arm. He quickly threw open all the doors for the few passengers to get out and then he leaped from the crippled tram. He could see that the flames instantly incinerated the man driving the BMW.

Karl Potgeiter had known when he bought the car that it was a younger man's vehicle. Although he was seventy-two, partially retired, and now working as a consultant to the UN's Vienna-based, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he was fit and looked much younger than his years. A nuclear physicist, he was a South African citizen, but had lived in Austria for twenty-two years. Every weekday morning, he drove himself into Vienna for an early Frühstück, breakfast, at his favorite haunt, the Café Lantman next to the Burgtheater on the Ringstrasse.

That morning, his usual waitress, Maria, wondered where he was. She learned about the crash a few hours later. Word spread quickly as to why the 38 tram route was closed. Later, Maria would read that poor Dr. Potgeiter's body was burned beyond all recognition and was only identified by dental records. It did not help her calm down to see the picture of the flaming car dominating the front page of Kronen Zeitung the next day. Maria knew he had been such a nice man, such a good tipper. She also knew that it was such bad luck. There were so few fatal accidents with the trolleys.


HERZLIYA, ISRAEL

Dawid Steyn and his wife, Rachel, enjoyed living in Herzliya Pituah, near the beach. It was an expensive neighborhood, but the house was big enough for her mother to live with them and take care of the girls. It was also close to Israel's Silicon Valley. Rachel could drive to work at Google in ten minutes, including the time it took to drop Dawid off at the train station. For Dawid, the train ride into Tel Aviv gave him just enough time to scan The Jerusalem Post. He usually tried to get a seat on the upper level of the double-decker train that ran from Binyamina through Tel Aviv to Ashkelon. On the 0708 train, that was usually not a problem. If he waited for a later departure, the upper deck filled up before the train got to Herzliya, but Rachel was an early riser and Dawid had adjusted to her ways long ago, so making the early train was easy.

His eighteen-minute commute, from Herzliya, a town named after the father of Zionism to a train station named for the original Israeli military, the Haganah, reminded him every day of the origins of his adopted country. He and his father had moved to Israel after his mother died, when Dawid was ten. His mother had been Jewish, so Dawid gained Israeli citizenship automatically through the Right of Return. Now, with his father dead, Dawid Steyn carried on the family's international investment business from a small office in Tel Aviv. No one could tell from the Steyn office suite's modest size that the firm managed over two billion dollars in assets, and as of this week it was two and a half billion.

He looked up as the train stopped at Tel Aviv University, watching the students disembarking. They looked so young, but he reminded himself that it was almost fifteen years ago that he had graduated from that school. In less than a decade, his own girls could be riding this train to University, if Rachel's mother could ever let go of them.

At 0726 the big, red, double-decker train from Binyamina pulled into track three at Tel Aviv Haganah Station, from which Dawid would normally catch the line 16 Dan bus to his office near the beach promenade. He was among the last to get off the train, at the rear of the crowd making its way up the platform to the escalator, his head still in the Post as he walked. There was a push, then a shove. Startled, Dawid looked up as the man hit against him hard, sending him off the platform and on to Track 4 just as the express from Nahariya pulled into the station.

Dawid Steyn, thirty-five, was the first person to die on the tracks at the Haganah Station. It was almost 0830 when the Tel Aviv Police reached Rachel at her desk at Google. Her first emotion was guilt, that she had been wrong to mock Dawid's paranoia, his theory that people were following him.


THE ADDRESS HOTEL, MALL OF THE EMIRATES DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

"Room service," he heard from outside his door. Marius Plessis thought room service was the best part of his condo-apartment in the hotel, that and the fact that he could walk to all the restaurants and stores in the Mall. It was also a five-minute taxi ride to his office and a fifteen-minute drive to the marina where he kept his boat.

He threw on his robe, tying it closed as he made his way to the door. He had set the time for breakfast delivery at 0900. Was it nine already? He had gotten in late from the airport the night before. His flight from Zürich had not landed until after midnight. Rubbing his eyes, he opened the door. "Please, set it up on the balcony," he said to the waiter. Half the year, the weather in Dubai was delightful and he enjoyed being outside as much as possible. The other half it was so hot that, if he had to be in Dubai then, he tried never to leave the air-conditioned environments.

Marius stepped into the bathroom as the waiter pushed the food dolly cart to the balcony. When he emerged, the polite, young Indian stood waiting for him on the balcony, holding the morning papers. "The Khaleej Times, sir, and your Financial Times, as usual," the waiter said. Marius added a tip and signed for the breakfast.

He regretted that they did not serve "real" bacon. It was one of the few things that he missed, living in Dubai. As he devoured the scrambled eggs, Marius Plessis folded the salmon-colored Financial Times so he could read the story on the rise in the price of natural gas. He wondered if it was too late to invest in the new Australian shale fields. He would have to find somewhere new to invest soon, now that the money had hit the accounts he managed. His advisors at the Dubai International Financial Center had been at the office for hours already, straddling the Asian and European markets. He thought he should call them after breakfast, or maybe he would just go over there after lunch at La Petite Maison. It was a better restaurant, he thought, than the London original, behind Claridge's.

Finishing breakfast, he rose and stretched, looking north toward Iran. It may be a troubled neighborhood, he thought, but there could be few better places to live than in Dubai. You could get anything here, anything, and nowhere was the standard of living higher. With a modern, high-rise, luxury condominium here and another in Vancouver for the summer months, what more could he ask for in life? He never missed the land of his birth, let them have it. They were destroying it, as he knew they would. His two daughters were happily married and living in Toronto and San Diego. He saw them and their babies just enough. They would never approve of the female friends he had here, some of them younger than his daughters, but what was money for if you did not get enjoyment from it. At seventy-one, he was still in great shape, with a little assistance from the pills.

Perhaps, he thought, he would visit the gym after going over to the DIFC. His trainer would be there today, at the hotel's marvelous spa. He heard the waiter entering the suite to collect the food cart. Marius looked down at the dancing fountains, forty-six floors below, and smiled, contented with his life now, after all of the earlier strife. Then he felt his legs being grabbed at the ankles, his head was over the railing and he was in the air, off the building, falling toward the fountains.

The Khaleej Times would not carry the story of Marius Plessis's death. Suicides, like his, did not fit in with the themes that the Ruler wanted reported in his papers and, in reality, there were hardly any suicides in the emirate except among the guest workers on the construction projects. White men like Plessis almost never killed themselves in Dubai.


CLARKE QUAY SINGAPORE

"I don't think you need me anymore, Dr. Coetzee," the attractive Asian woman said, dabbing her mouth with her napkin. "Your Chinese is almost flawless, but I do enjoy our lunches and tutorials, so I will not complain if you wish to continue." The couple sat at an outside restaurant on the water, enjoying a late and long lunch, in a modern complex of bars, restaurants, and shops where once the old freighters had docked. Now the ships were so large that only the giant cranes could handle their container cargo, at the computerized terminals across the harbor. The current cargo piers were like conveyor belts for the containers, with hundreds of ships lined up just beyond the harbor, waiting their turns to offload and load up.

"Weemin, my Chinese is only fair. When my associates drop the English and start talking rapidly in Chinese, I only pick up about half of what they are saying to each other."

"That may be, sir, because they do not want you to know what they are saying. They may suspect that you have been taking Chinese lessons for years now. After all, they are all spies at the Security and Intelligence Division, the SID, they must know about me," she said, smiling at the older man.

Cornelius Coetzee looked slightly embarrassed. "I may have led them to believe that our relationship is less than platonic. I don't think they know I speak and read Chinese. There is never a Chinese language document in the office. English is the government language, the business language. Chinese is only spoken at home, and, as you say, when they want to keep things from me."

"How do you know, Dr. Coetzee, that I do not work for your colleagues at the SID? I may report everything to them," Weemin said, laughing.

"Because you work for my employers' archrival, the internal security boys, ISD. My dear, I have known that for years and I must say that your reports to them about me must be very boring indeed."

"Cornelius, how can you think that?" she protested, mildly. "And if I did work for ISD, why after all these years of having nothing to report about you would they keep sending me out to meet you?"

Coetzee chuckled. "Because they hate the SID so much that any chance they could learn some inside tidbit is worth it to them, however silly that is."

"I think there is another reason that you want to improve your Chinese," she suggested.

The check came and Cornelius Coetzee produced a credit card. "Oh, really. And what, please tell, might that be, my little spook?"

"You advise the SID only one day a week now, not because they do not want you to spend more time with them, but because your investments take more and more of your time." She was dropping all pretense now of being only a Chinese tutor. "You have been investing heavily in China and doing very well where others have not. And just this week you received a great deal more money to invest. They may ask you where that money came from?"

Coetzee, too, had ceased to play the part of the doddering, old, retired spy. "Who might ask me, Weemin?"

"The Internal Security Division, or even your friends at the SID. They must know, too," she said.

He signed the credit card bill and punched his PIN into the handheld machine the waiter brought to the table. When the waiter was gone, Dr. Cornelius Cotzee looked Weemin Zhu in the eyes and said, very softly, "You know, Weemin, I think you are right. My Chinese has gotten to the point where I don't need you anymore. May you live a long and happy life." He rose from the table and walked toward the street, leaving her sitting, somewhat stunned, by the waterside.

He strode quickly toward River Valley Road, past the modern, chain stores and bars, ignoring the sign that read THE PARTY NEVER STOPS AT CLARKE QUAY. The anger was rising up inside him. He had worked for this little city-state country for more than two decades, helping their fledgling foreign intelligence service in tradecraft, talent spotting, and agent handling, everything he had done so well in his own country. His advice had helped them penetrate the U.S. Navy, the Australian Army, the Indonesian President's office, and the Malaysian police. And what gratitude do they show? When the money entrusted to him by his old colleagues suddenly increases, they think he's been paid off for spying on Singapore? He had been completely loyal to his new home. Furthermore, who would pay him half a billion dollars U.S. for spying on Singapore? He would have to sell their giant casino complex, that ugly monstrosity, to get paid that kind of money.

He knew that getting mad like this was not good for his blood pressure, so he exhaled and tried to calm down. He reached the road and thrust up his arm to hail one of the ubiquitous blue taxis. As he did, a 9mm bullet pierced his forehead just above his nose. Cornelius Coetzee leaned backward and then folded like a Macy's parade balloon, falling to his knees and then forward, his head hitting the sidewalk and covering it with a quickly expanding pool of bright red blood.

Hearing the shot, Weemin Zhu ran toward him, pulling a handgun from her purse, but there was no one to shoot at, no indication of the shot's origin. She looked down at Coetzee and knew that the single bullet had been fatal. She replaced the gun in her handbag and removed her mobile. She called the Watch Command at the Internal Security Division and identified herself. "I need a response unit immediately at Clarke Quay. There has been a murder of my subject. The police will be here soon. Do you want me to tell them that this is my case?"

They did want her to. The Internal Security Division thought the police would never be able to figure it out and, besides, maybe Coetzee's murder would reflect badly on their rival, his employer, the SID. After all, they said to Weemin, a murder in Singapore had to be an espionage-related event. There was no street crime in the city.


THE ROCKS, SYDNEY NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA

"I'm taking the rest of the day off. Got some chums in town, going to go do the Manly thing with them," Willem Merwe announced to his staff as he bounded out of the office of Merwe-Wyk-Roux in the restored brick building in the old part of town. "See you all in the morning."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pinnacle Event by Richard A. Clarke. Copyright © 2015 RAC Enterprises. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Pinnacle Event 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast paced, believable, and full of unique characters. Loved it from beginning to end.