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Read an Excerpt
By Brian Haig
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
"I BELIEVE YOU CALLED ME," I INFORMED THE VERY ATTRACTIVE YOUNG LADY
seated at the desk.
She appeared not to have heard me.
"Excuse me, Miss. Major Sean Drummond ... the phone, you called,
She replied, sounding annoyed, "Yes. I was ordered to."
"I'm not. You're not worth getting mad about."
"I honestly meant to call you."
"I'm glad you didn't."
"Yes. I was tired of you anyway."
She stared into her computer screen. And indeed, she was mad. It
occurred to me that dating the boss's secretary might not have been
a good idea. But she was quite good-looking, as I mentioned, with
smoldering dark eyes, bewitching lips, and, I recalled, beneath that
desk, a pair of splendid legs. Actually, why hadn't I called her?
I leaned across her desk. "Linda, I had a wonderful time."
"Of course you did. I didn't."
"I'm truly sorry it didn't work out."
"Good. I'm not."
I searched my mind for an appropriate sentiment and finally said,
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly
into the past."
"What?" She finally looked up.
"The Great Gatsby ... the final line."
"Fuck off-that's Jackie Collins, if you're interested." She added,
icily, "And take your hands off my desk. I just polished it."
Goodness. Now I recalled why I never called her after that first
date. Actually, I never called her before the first date-she called
me. But I learned long ago that what matters is not who starts it
but who ends it.
I straightened up and asked, "So, why does the old man want to see
"I'd rather ask you."
"All right. Ask more nicely."
"Fine. Please, Linda ... why am I here?"
"I'm not at liberty to tell you." She smiled.
Well, what more was there to say? She was being petty and
I backed away, far enough that she couldn't staple my hand to my
crotch or something. That smile, however, bothered me. "Absit omen,"
I mumbled- May it not be an omen.
I suspected it was, however. So I spent a moment thinking about
that. It occurred to me that nearly two months had passed since my
last session with the boss. These are never pleasant meetings. In
fact, they are never intended to be. The boss and I have a
relationship that might be described as messy, and he has developed
this really weird opinion that if he rides my butt hard enough, and
often enough, it will fix itself. He calls them preemptive sessions.
I call them a waste of time. They have not worked in the past, and
we all know that persistent failure is not fertile ground for future
success. But he stays at it. This must be what it's like to be
"I'll just wait here till he's ready," I informed Linda. It fit, I
decided-General Clapper would toast my ears a little, and nosy,
vindictive Linda would press her ear to the door and indulge in her
vicarious retribution. I'd tune him out, as I always do, and I'd
assure him at the end, also as I always do, that he'd made some very
constructive points and had seen his last trouble from Sean
No big deal. Right?
Wrong-ahead lay murder, scandal, and deeds so odious and foul they
would turn my life, and this entire city, upside down. In fact,
while I cooled my heels in this office, the murderer was already
plotting the first of what would become many kills. And those who
would become kills were going about their lives, unaware they were
in the crosshairs of a monster.
But I don't think Linda foresaw that. I don't think she even wished
Incidentally, I don't work in the Pentagon, where this particular
office was, and still is, located. I hang my hat in a small
red-brick building inside a military base in Falls Church, Virginia,
a tiny place with high fences, lots of guards, no signs, and no
confusing room numbers. But if you're into confusing room numbers,
Clapper's office is designated 2E535-2 connoting the second floor, E
signifying the outer and most prestigious ring, and 535 indicating
the same side of the building that got clobbered by Osama's boys. In
the old days of the cold war, the courtyard in the middle of the
Pentagon was called Ground Zero, the innermost A-Ring was Suicide
Alley, and the outermost E-Ring was the place to be. But it's a new
world and things change.
"He's ready for you now," announced Linda, again smiling.
I glanced at my watch: 1700 hours, or 5:00 P.M., the end of the
official duty day, a warm early December evening to be precise. I
love this season. I mean, between Thanksgiving and Christmas nobody
in Washington even pretends they're working. How good is that? In
fact, the last case in my in-box had just danced over to my out-box,
and it was my turn.
Anyway, I stepped into Clapper's office, and he seemed so delighted
to see me he even said, "Sean ... I'm so delighted to see you." He
waved at a pair of plush leather chairs and asked, "Well, my old
friend, how are things?"
My old friend? "I'm fine, General. Thank you for asking."
"Well, good. You've been doing great work, and I'm very proud of
you." His ass relaxed into a stuffed chair, and it struck me I was
getting enough phony sunshine stuffed up my ass to be a health risk.
He asked, "That Albioni case, has it been wrapped up yet?"
"Yes. This morning, in fact. We reached a plea agreement."
For some reason, I had the annoying sense he knew this already.
By the way, I'm what the Army calls a Special Actions attorney. If
you want to know, I'm actually a defense counsel in a specialized
compartment of lawyers and judges. We're specialized because we
manage the legal issues of the Army's black operations, a menagerie
of people and units so spooky nobody's supposed to know they even
exist. It's all smoke and mirrors, and we're part of that circus.
In fact, my office supposedly doesn't exist, and neither do I, which
often makes me wonder why in the hell I get out of bed in the
morning. Just kidding. I love my job. Really. However, the
sensitivity and seriousness of our work means we work directly for
the Judge Advocate General, a line on Clapper's organizational chart
he bitterly regrets, as we, and particularly me, are a royal pain in
So, what else? I'm 38 years old, single, have always been single,
and the way things were looking, the past was lining up to be a
prologue to the future. I regard myself as a fairly decent attorney,
a master of the military legal code, clever, resourceful, and all
that. My boss might object to any or all of those points, but what
does he know? In my business, it's the clients who count, and I
rarely get complaints.
But, back to my superficially perfect host. He inquired, "So tell
me, Sean, what punishment did Albioni take in exchange for his
"You know ... it was fair and just."
"Good. Now describe for me please your idea of fair and just."
"All right. Two years in Leavenworth, honorable discharge, full
"I see." But he did not look happy.
The subject in question was Sergeant First Class Luigi Albioni, who
was part of a unit that collects intelligence on foreign targets and
who had been dispatched to Europe with an American Express card to
shadow the dictator of a country that must remain anonymous. If
you're curious, however, think of a large pisshole slowbaking
between Egypt and Tunisia, a place we once bombed after it sent a
terrorist to blow up a German disco filled with American GIs, and we
still aren't invited to each other's barbecues. Yet it seems the
dictator likes to don disguises on occasion and escape the stuffy
Muslim ways of his country to partake in the decadent ways of the
West, and Luigi's job was to skulk around and obtain photos of the
camel-jockey as he shot craps in Monaco and cavorted in Amsterdam's
Exactly why our national leaders would want such disgusting pictures
is, you can be sure, a question I would like answered. But in this
business, don't ask. They usually won't answer. If they do, it's all
Anyway, a week after Luigi departed from JFK International, he-and a
hundred grand drawn on his charge card-disappeared into thin air,
whatever the hell that clich? means. Six months passed before Luigi
did something inexplicably stupid: He emailed an ex-wife. To inquire
if there was a bounty on his ass, she called the Army's Criminal
Investigation Division, who notified us; who swiftly arranged to
have that same ass collected from a well-known Swiss resort, which
accounts for when and how I came into the picture.
Actually, Luigi turned out to be a pretty good guy for a scumbag who
deserted his country. We bonded a little, and he confided that in
order to protect his cover he had tried his hand at blackjack, got
seriously carried away, lost ninety grand, then his luck turned and
he won nine hundred grand. It was a fingertap from God, Luigi was
sure-after seventeen years of loyal and courageous service, the time
had come to pack it in on his own terms.
But back to Clapper. He logically asked, "And what happened to the
money your client stole from the ... from our government?"
I pointed out, "You mean the hundred grand he borrowed? He always
intended to send a check with compounded interest. The rest were
"Drummond ... just don't." Well, it had worked with the prosecutor,
but that's another story.
"The remainder's being donated to the Old Soldier's Home."
"Is that so?" He raised his eyebrows and suggested, I think
skeptically, "A charitable gesture from a guilt-wrought man I take
"In his own words, the least he could do, you know ... considering
his crimes, his love for the Army, and-"
"And the ten-year reduction played no role? None whatsoever?"
Well, he obviously knew more about the case than he had let on. And
then he asked, "So what did we get for ten years of his life?"
"Seven hundred grand, give or take change. And be thankful-in the
private sector, half that would be sitting in my checking account
for services rendered."
"Yes, half would be about right." He chuckled and commented, "But
then you wouldn't have the grand satisfaction of serving your
country." This was an old joke that never goes down well, and he
then added, "Actually, it's ironic you should mention it."
But he did not elaborate on that cryptic thought. Instead he asked,
"Please remind me, Sean, how long have you been assigned to the
Special Actions unit?"
"Oh, let's see ... eight years, come next March."
"I think you mean since last September. Right? Four years
prosecuting and four defending. Right?"
I nodded. Yes, that would be exactly right.
But regarding me, I believe wholeheartedly in the eleventh
commandment: Thou shalt not fixeth that which is not brokeneth. The
Army, however, was created to wreck things that aren't broken, a
mindset that bleeds over into its personnel policies. Actually,
nobody in the Army believes there are personnel policies, just a
standing order that as soon as a soldier becomes acclimated to a
certain place, masters a certain job, or appears happy where they're
at, it's time to jerk their ass through some new knothole.
Professionally, I was very content where I was. Socially, I had
But Clapper was explaining, "JAG officers have to be well-rounded.
Contracts, negotiations, there's a whole world of law you've never
"Good point. You're right. Let's keep it that way."
"I ... I understand." He cleared his throat and continued, less
tolerantly, "I also understand you're up for promotion this year." I
nodded to acknowledge this fact before he added, "So, do I need to
remind you that promotion boards tend to choose officers with more
general knowledge and experience in the field of law?"
"Who cares?" Actually, I care. I'm as ambitious as the next guy, I
just want to succeed on my own terms.
This, however, was neither the appropriate nor desired response. He
got up, turned his back on me, and gazed out the window, across the
highway at Arlington National Cemetery. He obviously had something
up his sleeve, and I had the sense he was about to transfer it up my
ass. That aside, you have to ponder the logic that placed the
Pentagon and the cemetery next to each other-the living and dead,
past and present, lucky and unlucky-right there. The sight of those
endless rows of white stones tends not to promote those aspirations
and ambitions that beget hard work, long hours, and diligence. But
more sensibly, those markers do remind the powers who rule this
building of the price of stupid blunders, which perhaps was what the
I wondered if Clapper was staring across that road and pondering his
mortality. How foolish-he was apparently pondering mine.
He asked, over his shoulder, "Have you ever heard of the WWIP?"
"Sure. I had a friend who caught it once. Very rough. His dick fell
He was not amused. "The full title is the Working With Industry
Program, Sean. It's where we put an officer in a civilian company
for a year. The officer learns what's new and state-of-the-art in
the private sector, then brings that knowledge back into the
military. It's a highly regarded program for our most promising
officers-good for the individual and good for the Army."
"It does sound like a great program. I'll even name ten guys who'd
love to do that." I then added, "But my name won't be on that list."
"In fact, yours is the only name on that list." He walked back in my
direction and ordered, "Report for duty at Culper, Hutch, and Westin
first thing in the morning. It's located here in D.C., and it's a
damned fine firm."
I said nothing.
He said, "Don't give me that look. It'll do you good. You've worked
a lot of hard cases, and you'll benefit from the break. Actually,
Excerpted from Private Sector
by Brian Haig
Copyright © 2003 by Brian Haig.
Excerpted by permission.
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Brian Haig was an exceptional officer. Having served under him at Ft. Carson Co. 20+ yrs ago I can attest that the author is a fair, honest, extremely funny guy. The finest officer I served under. Way to go Brian. Jim Hardesty HHC 1st. Bn 11th Inf. 4th Inf Div.
Not as good as either Mortal Allies or The Kingmaker, but still a very entertaining book. This time, the novel throws in a serial killer element to go with thriller and mystery elements. And I enjoyed the fact that Haig remembers characters that he has introduced previously and returns to them where appropriate. Sean Drummond is, now that I know what to expect, becoming one of my favorite characters. (As an example of the sort of dialog that a reader can expect, in one sequence Maj. Drummond's commanding general orders Drummond to report for a new assignment that Drummond wants no part of. Drummond asks if the new assignment is negotiable and the general replies that it is not. To this Drummond asks: "Is your non-negotiability negotiable?") Smart and funny without taking away from the action and excitement. Said another way: Funny without being stupid.
Best of the series so far. Love the characters and the author
Very impressive characterization of the protagonist - humorous, extremely likable and despicable at once. Amazing plot development, storytelling and great depth of lesser characters as well. An all around great read.
Drummond is funny!
Glad I stumbled onto Brian Haig's Sean Drummond series. This character is so cool, a skeptical radar for BS, forever the smartass especially when the chips are down and the underdog's advocate. He's also smart as a whip but regarded as a rube by high flyers because he likes it right where he is as an attorney in the military righting wrongs. The high and mighty looking down their noses at him better walk the straight and narrow because they'll not get up early enough tp put one past Sean Drummond.
Love the Sean Drummond series.