This thriller by an ex-FBI agent about a Supreme Court nominee and a high-level cover-up is “a must-read” (Harlan Coben).
FBI agent Puller Monk and his Special Inquiries (SPIN) squad figure their latest assignment—a background check on the 1st African American female Supreme Court nominee—will be a routine investigation. But when verifying information about Federal Judge Brenda Thompson, it becomes clear that she’s lying about a 3-week gap in her past that occurred between college and law school. Her old roommate could provide answers, but she’s missing.
Soon, Monk has a dead body on his hands, and he and Special Agent Lisa Sands are plunged into a maelstrom of deceit, corruption, and murder that reaches the highest levels of government. Monk is determined to blow the lid off a massive cover-up, but he may not be able to contain the fallout as the truth starts to emerge. Amid escalating violence, the FBI agent orchestrates a sting that will force a killer from the shadows—a cunning adversary who has his own plan for taking out Monk.
With “engaging characters [and] a racing plot” (Houston Chronicle), this suspenseful read offers both an authentic portrayal of the world of national security and a high-tension story of corruption and murder. “The author, a former FBI agent, writes like a pro, and this is one of those thrillers you genuinely wish wouldn’t end” (Booklist, starred review).
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By Gene Riehl
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Gene Riehl
All rights reserved.
I was a liar a long time before I hooked up with Dr. Paul Chen — good enough at it to fool my bosses for years — but now they'd changed the rules. At long last they were getting serious. Now they had a brand-new machine, and suddenly I didn't stand a chance. Or so Dr. Chen was telling me during our regular Monday afternoon session at his biofeedback clinic in Georgetown.
"This is not about self-confidence alone, Mr. Monk," he said. "If it were, you would not need me at all. You have mastered a few tricks to manipulate the polygraph, but that means nothing anymore."
In the darkened office he kept too warm, the doctor sat at his desk-console while I lay in a leather recliner a few feet to his right, my stockinged feet hanging over the end as they always did. Aromatic smoke curled from a smoldering stick of incense in the corner of the room, and a cone of light from the high-intensity lamp on his desk dramatized Chen's gaunt face and the gray chin-whiskers that made him look like Fu Manchu. His hushed voice and stilted Chinese accent added to the illusion.
"Polygraphy," he continued, "is a science of emotion. That is why it is so unreliable, why a strong-willed person such as yourself can be taught to fool it. That is why the technology has moved in a different direction, to cognition instead of emotion. The future is in brain waves, Mr. Monk, not such transient phenomena as blood pressure and galvanic skin response. And now — for you at least — the future appears to have arrived."
I glanced at my watch. What the hell was he talking about? I didn't have time for this today. I turned my head to stare at him.
"What're you saying ... that you can't help me?"
"I am saying there is no point, not with the same method we have been using at any rate. What use is it to be able to beat a polygraph if the machine no longer exists? Why learn to use a slide rule in an age of computers?"
The back of my neck began to burn. "You wait till now to tell me this?"
"It would have been a waste of time, until I knew you better. If you had not made such progress with the traditional test, there would have been no hope you could beat the new one."
I nodded, but time was wasting, and I didn't give a damn about what he thought I could or couldn't do. Whatever it was, I'd get it done.
"There's no test that can't be beaten," I told him. "I'm paying you to show me how, not to tell me why not."
He smiled, his lips parting a centimeter or so, his uneven teeth gleaming in the weird lighting. "I cannot recall a more determined client, Mr. Monk. I, too, have little interest in excuses. Perhaps we should get started."
"What are we talking about, timewise? I've got a six o'clock flight out of BWI, at least an hour of paperwork to clear up back at the office before I can leave for the airport. I'll only be gone overnight. Maybe it would be better to try this tomorrow when I'm not so pushed."
He shook his head. "You cannot leave. We must not stop just because you are in a hurry, because your level of stress is high. Just the opposite as a matter of fact. If you cannot learn to do this with your stomach clenching and your neck rigid, you will be lost. But once you can, their instruments will be useless against you."
I opened my mouth to argue but closed it again as I admitted he was right, that when it finally happened I'd be grateful for his insistence. I nodded, and Chen seemed to leave his desk and appear next to my recliner without taking a step.
In his hand he carried dozens of thready electric wires — leads similar to those we'd been using with the polygraph — that I could see were connected to the mahogany instrument panel that dominated his desk. He stood over me and began to tape the sensors to my face, scalp, and neck. He kept talking while he worked.
"To lie successfully," he said, "you must first think of the words you are about to say, assess the probability they will be accepted as truthful. Doing so causes a burst of brain-wave activity that is lacking when you tell the truth. Researchers believe human beings are powerless to control such bursts, but my hypothesis is that they are wrong. You first came to me because of the success I have had with others of your colleagues. You people have now become critical to my study."
"What's so special about FBI agents?"
"You are exceptionally authentic liars, Mr. Monk. I am the only researcher in the field fortunate enough to be working with you."
I stared at him and tried to think of a response. My pleasure didn't sound right. Fuck you didn't either, but before I could think of something better he was talking again.
"For studies like these, authentic liars are almost impossible to recruit. And inducing fake liars to think like real ones is very difficult." His smile was ghastly in the shadows of his face. "The FBI is a rich source of liars, all the way back to Hoover himself. Not in court — not often in court, I should say — but within the bureau itself. Hoover set up a system that required his agents to tell him lies to keep their jobs. The system has never changed."
He bent closer to tape the last two sensors somewhere over my right ear. "Your particular lies are not work-related, you contend, but the bureau would disagree. In fact, they would fire you just for being here. You have been promoted into an assignment you do not like, but to get to the counter-terrorism work you consider more important you must first pass a lie detector test. You are here to learn how to make that happen. I will not send you away until you do."
I nodded, the wires clattering. "Let's get on with it then. Where do we start?"
"We must establish a baseline for you. I will ask very simple questions. You will answer them yes or no, just like you did with the polygraph. The monitor in my console displays information from the sensors attached to your head. The digital input is converted to colors. Blue lines for truth, red lines for the brain-wave bursts that indicate you are lying."
"Do I watch the screen with you?"
I tried to get comfortable, but it wasn't easy. Maybe that was part of the test.
"Are you forty-four years old, Mr. Monk?"
"Are your eyes blue?"
"And your hair is brown?"
"Are you an FBI supervisor in charge of special investigations for the White House?"
"Have you ever lied on an official FBI document?"
"Do you live in Fredericksburg, Virginia?"
"Do you socialize with known criminals?"
"Do you work out of the Washington Metropolitan Field Office?"
"Have you ever lied to the FBI about any aspect of your personal life?"
Dr. Chen stood, came around to the recliner, and began to remove the electrodes.
"How'd I do?" I asked him. "For the first time, I mean."
He looked at me and shook his head slowly. I didn't bother to ask again.CHAPTER 2
Crosstown traffic toward the Washington Metropolitan Field Office on Fourth Street was thick enough to give me plenty of time to think. Dr. Chen's negativity troubled me until I decided I'd been too distracted by the prospect of my night in Connecticut to give his newest gadget a reasonable shot. Next time I'd be ready. If Connecticut worked out the way it should, I might even be able to pay down some of his bill.
I passed the Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue and noticed a commotion near the front entrance at the corner of Ninth Street. Blue-and-white Metropolitan P.D. squad cars lined the curb. A throng of protesters had gotten too close to the doors again. M.P.D. was shoving them back toward the street, and the crowd didn't like it. They jabbed their signs at the cops like torch-bearing villagers in a Frankenstein movie, and I could hear their familiar chant over the slap-slap of my windshield wipers.
"No more Carni-vore!" they shouted, ignoring the fact that the bureau had long ago changed the name of the controversial e-mail interception program to the less provocative but pretty much unchantable DCS1000. "No more Carni-vore!"
They'd be over at WMFO, too, of course, with their growing outrage over the newest addition to the program, the sci-fi–sounding Magic Lantern that could penetrate a home computer all the way down to the individual keystrokes that send data to the hard drive. Even I realized how spooky that could sound if you thought about the possibilities for abuse, if you pictured an unscrupulous FBI using the program to get around the Fourth Amendment. Hard to blame the protesters for bringing their message directly to us. The legitimate protesters, that is, but the honest ones have never been the problem.
Unfortunately for both sides, there were the others — the hardcore rabble of window-breaking and rock-throwing mouth-breathers who turned out for anything that gave them a chance to indulge their hobby. Today it was Magic Lantern, but before that it was the World Trade Organization. Next month — the way things were going since 9/11 — would bring out the Fair Play for Terrorists crowd.
I took the short diagonal on Indiana Avenue and three minutes later saw I'd been right. The down ramp into the bureau garage was blocked by protesters, but there were no cops or GSA guards around. Typical. As long as the Hoover Building was secure, we peons could eat cake. And this bunch was loud, I had to give them that, their message clearly audible over the music from my radio.
"No more Carni-vore! ... No more Carni-vore! ... No more Carni-vore!"
I turned down the ramp, eased my Caprice toward them, tapped on the horn a couple of times but kept the big car moving. I didn't get far before I felt a jolt from the rear. I checked my mirror. At the back of the car a bearded man in an army camouflage jacket and black knit watch cap was jumping up and down on my bumper, screaming, his middle finger thrusting at me, his mouth slobbering with rage as he tried to spit on my rear window. I thought about making a federal case out of it, but I didn't have time for the paperwork, so I tapped my brakes instead. Thrown off balance, the idiot toppled forward across my trunk deck then fell off the car. I grinned. The simplest way is always the best.
But it wasn't that simple, I realized an instant later.
The bearded man appeared outside my window, his arm cocked before it flashed forward at me. I turned away reflexively and heard the crack-splat of an egg hitting the window. I turned back, stared at him through the spreading yolk on the glass between us.
I slammed the gear lever into park, hurled the door open, and caught him before he could jump back. He stumbled, fell to the pavement, and I was all over him. I grabbed a handful of the camouflage jacket and jerked him to his feet. His eyes widened, but shouts of rage from the mob emboldened him.
"Just like a pig!" he hollered. "Whattya gonna do, beat me up?"
"Gestapo!" a voice shouted from behind him.
"Nazi!" a second voice added.
A third man moved toward me, his mouth wide open. "Maybe you oughta kill all of us!" he screamed as he got closer.
The crowd began to edge toward me. I dragged Egg Man a few steps in their direction and it confused them into silence.
"Think about it," I said, loud enough for everyone to hear. "A year in jail for assaulting a federal officer ... ten-thousand dollar fine, minimum, but don't let that stop you. Maybe you can all go to the judge together, get some kind of group discount." I turned back to my prisoner. "I'm going to make you a deal," I told him. "Think of it as a plea bargain."
"What the hell are you talking about?" he muttered. "You crazy or something?"
"Or something," I told him, then pointed at the grocery bag in his left hand. "Got any more eggs in there?"
He appeared lost for words, so I grabbed the bag and checked for myself. Sure enough, there was a fresh carton inside. Grade AA extra large. The only one missing was already hardening on my window.
"What's your name?" I asked my captive.
"I don't have to give you —"
I jerked his jacket so hard his stocking cap fell halfway down his face before he got it back on his head.
"Steve," he mumbled.
"Okay, Steve, here's what we're going to do." I lifted his carton of eggs out of the bag. "Give me your cap."
"No way!" he said. "No goddamned way! You can't make me —"
I reached for the handcuffs attached to my belt. "Fine. It's probably best we do this the right way anyway."
He held up his hand. "Fuck you," he muttered as he dragged the stocking cap off his head and handed it to me.
I emptied the carton into his cap, placed the cap back on his head very carefully, then snugged it down over his ears. He started to shake his head at me, realizing now how this was going to play out. To my credit I didn't make him agonize long over it. Before he could get his hands up to stop me, I used my six-inch height advantage to reach out and clap him right on the top of his pointy head. The soft explosion of collapsing eggshells was clearly audible in what had become an almost surrealistic quiet.
The crowd gasped. Steve's eyes got wide. A yellow curtain of yoke descended from beneath the cap down his forehead and into those eyes. He wiped the worst of the mess away, glared at me with what I guessed were the first seeds of his plans for revenge.
I would watch for him, I told myself as I got back into the car and continued down the ramp into the garage, but I wasn't much worried. His type was no good without a mob, and it would be a while — after word of this passed through Washington's cretin community — before young Steve found another group willing to back him.
Upstairs, I strode through the bullpen toward my office at the rear of the Squad 17 bullpen. Most of the twenty agents assigned to my Special Inquiries Squad — SPIN, in bureau speak — were at their desks, telephones at their ears, pumping the world for information about one or another of the hundreds of applicants and nominees for government positions important enough to merit a White House request for special attention. The cacophony was startling the first time I heard it, but after a while I didn't even notice it. I'd gotten the squad a little over a year ago as my first step up the administrative ladder, but I still had no idea how these people could turn out such high quality of work in such chaotic surroundings.
I stopped at Karen Kilbride's desk. My secretary stared at me.
"I was just about to call you on your cell phone," she said. "The ADIC wants to see you. Didn't sound real happy." Her eyes narrowed with concern. "What have you done now?"
"Not a thing," I told her, but I knew better. Somebody'd seen what happened downstairs, had dropped a dime on me. Or Assistant Director-in-Charge Kevin Finnerty had seen it himself. The ADIC's office overlooked the street, as well as the open down ramp into the garage. He might very well have been watching, and the thought did not please me. The man who ran the Washington Metropolitan Field Office was about as much fun as a visit to the proctologist.
Inside my office I headed for the phone to call him, but Special Agent Lisa Sands sat squarely in the way. I moved past her to the metal coatrack next to my desk, hung up my raincoat, turned and glanced above her head at the schoolroom clock on the wall.
"This'll have to be quick," I told her. "I have a meeting with the ADIC in a few minutes, and I've got to be at BWI in an hour." On the way to my desk I could smell her perfume. Flowery but not sweet, wildflowers maybe, and a big improvement over the stench of underarm sweat I'd brought back with me from the sinister Dr. Chen.
Agent Sands's dark brown eyes jabbed at me. "You're leaving? Now? Before we finish the Thompson report?"
I sat behind the desk, reached for the phone, told Kevin Finnerty's secretary I was on my way upstairs, then hung up.
"I'll be back tomorrow morning, Lisa. You told me Friday you were finished with the investigation. That all you have left is the report to dictate."
"That's what I thought on Friday, but I was wrong. I came in Saturday to dictate and that's when I caught the problem. It's a bad one. We can't let it go ... not after what happened with Grady."
My back teeth began to grind. Christ, I was sick of Supreme Court nominees. The Josephine Grady fiasco hadn't happened on my watch, but it was the reason the supervisor's job was open when it came time to promote me. My predecessor was working out of Butte, Montana, these days, but his failure had stayed behind with the squad I'd inherited. As far as the Hoover Building was concerned, a second Supreme Court disaster would be counted as my second failure, and two failures were deadlier than anthrax. I reached for my briefcase and opened it.
"Go ahead," I told Lisa Sands. "I can listen while I get ready to leave."
She shook her shoulder-length brown hair from side to side. "There are twenty days missing, boss" — in the bureau, the term survived despite the PC involved — "and I don't know how to find them."
Excerpted from Quantico Rules by Gene Riehl. Copyright © 2003 Gene Riehl. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The FBI Special Inquiries Squad (SPIN) conducts the usual thorough background check on a presidential nominee, Judge Brenda Thompson, the first African-American woman nominated to the Supreme Court. Hooverite Kevin Finnerty tells his subordinate SPIN chief Puller Monk to provide the report yesterday. Though unfair, Puller figures this is such a straightforward case, he plans to go a Connecticut Indian reservation for some serious gambling. However, Special Agent Lisa Sands has found a falsification on Judge Thompson's personal security questionnaire. Lisa persuades her boss to forget the gambling and help her follow up on the judge's prevarication. Though not easy for a compulsive gambler like Monk to ignore the pull of the casino, he agrees. However, the deeper inquiries soon lead to attempts on their lives and successful murders. To Monk his professional life seems under control compared to his personal life starting with his Alzheimer¿s dad and his drunken girlfriend. He mentally wagers with himself, which one will cause his next crisis? QUANTICO RULES will rule the FBI thriller set with its powerful investigative tale. Monk is a great protagonist with flaws and troubles that overwhelm him at times. Lisa is a dedicated agent who still believes although the conspiracy has shaken her foundation. The romance subplot slows down the exciting investigative novel, but is limited so fans receive a strong tale that demonstrates Gene Riehl¿s real skills to spin an exciting story. Harriet Klausner
After an interesting, engaging, intelligent and suspenseful beginning, 'Quantico Rules' loses its focus entirely and spins completely out of control. Expecting the novel to unfold to a careful and credible climax and conclusion, I was very disappointed. To me, it was as if the author got up from his typewriter and left the room for a while, and a couple of TV addicted teen-aged boys came in, sat down and wrote the last hundred pages!