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Written with the authority of twenty-six years of military and government service at sea and in Washington, P.T. Deutermann's Red Swan is a brilliant, provocative thriller about the contemporary war that no one sees, but which will shape the future of America and China.
Set in contemporary Washington D.C., Red Swan begins with an ominous phone call from Carson McGill, the Deputy Director of Operations in the CIA, to retired CIA officer Preston Allender. Henry Wallace is dead. A behind-the-scenes operator at the CIA, Wallace was integral to the Agency’s secret war against China’s national intelligence service, which infiltrates government and military offices, major businesses, and systems crucial to our security. Wallace had severely damaged China’s Washington spy ring with a devastating ruse, a so-called “black swan,” in which a deep-undercover female agent targeted and destroyed a key Chinese official. Now, Wallace’s mysterious death suggests that the CIA itself has been compromised and that China has someone inside the Agency.
But as Allender quietly investigates, he makes a shocking discovery that will upend the entire American intelligence apparatus. For Wallace’s black swan operation may have been turned against the CIA; a Red Swan is flying and the question is: who is she, what is her target, and where will she land?
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.10(d)|
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Dr. Preston Allender examined the woman standing in front of his desk. According to her service record, she was thirty-three. Pretty, brunette, well made, and obviously fit. Her expression seemed a bit haughty, as if she was here only because she had to be. She wore a gray linen skirt and jacket over a white silk blouse. The skirt ended demurely just below her knees, and her shoes qualified as more useful than fashionable. Her hands rested on her hips and her head tilted slightly to one side. Allender continued to examine her, his gaze partially obscured by large-framed eyeglasses with smoky lenses. He waited until she gave a small sigh of impatience. He had not invited her to sit down in one of the straight-backed chairs in front of his desk.
He glanced at her file. "You're Melanie Sloan?"
"Yes," she said. She had the throaty voice of a smoker, or an ex-smoker. Her suit jacket was a little big for her. He wondered if she was trying to conceal the size of her breasts. It didn't much matter — she exhibited an almost electric sex appeal, and that had been the number one criterion on his internal staffing call list. He was about to do a somewhat delicate dance here, because the operative for this particular mission might — his word — have to engage in intimate physical relations with the target of the operation. She was attractive enough, in an edgy way, but right now he had to see if she had the salt to take this on. He hoped so — her face was the closest match yet to the picture in his desk drawer.
"You've just finished your first overseas assignment in" — he glanced down at her record again — "Lisbon, and now you're back for specialty training, correct?"
"Yes." Her tone of voice indicated growing impatience, as if she were saying, If that's my record you're looking at, then we both know all this. Why are you wasting my time?
Good, he thought; she had a high opinion of herself, and that was going to be a vital trait. If she was the one. So: Time to confirm that.
"And you do understand that if you are approved for this mission, you might be required to consummate a physical relationship with the target individual?"
She hesitated. "I read that, yes," she said. "But I do have standards. I'll do that only if the target is a reasonably attractive man and not some drooling old troll with an enormous belly and bad teeth."
Allender didn't miss a beat. "What if the target is a woman?" he asked.
She blinked at that. "I suppose so," she said. "Although I'm not that way."
"I understand," he said, closing her file. "Now: Will you please disrobe."
"Wha-at!" she exclaimed.
"Will you please take off all of your clothes," he said, looking up and directly into her face now.
"In your dreams, Mister Whoever-the-hell-you-are."
"Not in my dreams, Ms. Sloan," he said, mildly. "And besides, why not? Are you embarrassed by your body?"
"I'd be embarrassed to have some perfect stranger gawking at me like some Peeping Tom, that's what. Any woman would. Are you nuts?" Her voice was shrill now and her hands, still planted on her hips, were balling into fists.
"But that's just it, Ms. Sloan," he said, keeping his tone as mild and reasonable as he could. "You're squawking about some stranger staring at your naked body, but what you said was 'gawking at me.' If you can't mentally separate your naked body from the inner you, the woman and the clandestine operative, then we can't use you for this mission."
She opened her mouth to reply but then closed it.
He reached for his phone, hit the intercom switch, and told his executive assistant that Ms. Sloan was leaving now.
"Wait," she said. "I'll do it. If that's what I have to do, I'll do it."
"No, Ms. Sloan," Allender said, with a faint smile. "I need someone a whole lot tougher than I think you are. Don't worry — none of this will affect your performance record. I'm sure you're an excellent operative, just like it says in your record. Thank you for coming in. Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you do not speak to anyone about your interview with me."
A calculating look crossed her face. "I should think not," she said. "That was a highly inappropriate request and you know it. You're lucky I don't file a sexual-harassment grievance against you. See how that would affect your performance record."
He sat back in his chair and removed the smoky glasses. He saw her react to his eyes. "Do what you must, Ms. Sloan," he said, softly. "Although you should understand that I don't have a performance record. I'm just a consultant here."
Carol Mann, Allender's executive assistant and a plain, plump woman in her fifties, stepped into the office at that moment and indicated to Sloan that she could leave now. Once the obviously still upset candidate was gone, Carol stuck her head back through the door.
"Told you," she said. "That's five bucks."
"It's unseemly to gloat," he said, reaching for his wallet.
"Put those glasses back on," she said. "You're disturbing my pacemaker."
Once Carol had left, Allender leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes before remounting the smoky glasses. This was going to be harder than he'd thought. Sloan had been the single most promising of the three candidates sent over from the training directorate. He'd rejected the first two based on their records alone — competent, but lacking that certain edge Sloan exhibited. Plus, she had done exceptionally well during her basic training period and her first overseas assignment. Mark Hannigan, chief of the Lisbon station, was not known for handing out effusive praise, especially for first-timers. She had impressed him somehow; maybe it was just that sex appeal, although her personality seemed more challenging than flirtatious. That could have been nerves, he thought. Or maybe she'd figured out who was doing the interview and clutched up a little. Nothing new there.
He was thumbing through her file again, wondering how to recast the staffing call, when Carol reappeared. "May have to give you your fiver back," she announced. "Sloan's back in reception and wants another try."
"Yup. Send her in?"
"Let's wait five minutes," he said.
"Don't be mean," she chided.
"I'm being me," he said.
"Well, whoop, whoop," she replied, dryly. "Dragon Eyes is in the building."
He took off his glasses again and glared at her. Carol pretended to quail in terror, but then closed the door.
Preston Allender was something of a gray eminence within the Agency. A psychiatrist, he was technically assigned to the operational training directorate as a medical consultant at the rank of assistant deputy director. All candidates for the Clandestine Service went through two years of intense preparation, much of it right there at Camp Peary, known throughout the Agency as the Farm. It was located in the Tidewater area of Virginia, near Williamsburg. During the candidates' two-year syllabus, every instructor involved in their training and qualification process carefully evaluated each candidate for weaknesses: technical incompetence, mental or emotional instability, latent psychological fears, and hidden physical limitations. And, of course, they'd been briefed to constantly probe the possibility that the candidate might already be a spy — for someone else.
In order to ensure that the instructors themselves were competent to perform this constant analysis, everyone who had material contact with CS candidates had to spend some quality time annually with Preston Allender, whose unique physical appearance and surgically incisive mind could deconstruct an individual's psyche over the course of a single morning. "Everyone" meant just that: departmental bosses, midlevel supervisors, right down to the individual hands-on instructors, the people who taught close-contact fighting, shooting, intrusion, disguise, communications, and escape and evasion. Once a year they had to endure an office call on the man they called, well behind his back, Dragon Eyes. Allender's brief was not so much concerned with internal Agency security as it was with each faculty member's psychological suitability for the stressful work of shaping a clandestine operative. That skill could atrophy over time, and so the supervisory operatives who trained and evaluated the newbies were universally wary of him. Part of that wariness stemmed from Allender's physical presence.
He was exactly six feet tall, slender, and so entirely composed that people meeting him for the first time were intimidated. He was physically fit, having adopted the habit of taking long walks after dinner each evening through the precincts of wherever his duties brought him. A long face, jet-black hair brushed straight back, a broad forehead, arching eyebrows, prominent cheekbones flanking a faintly hooked nose, and a mouth that seemed to hint at a set of steel teeth. His most striking facial feature, however, was the color of his large, deep-set, and faintly Asiatic eyes, which were bright amber, if not outright gold, with glistening, black pupils that seemed to change shape depending on the tone and tenor of the conversation. Whenever he came into a room he seemed to loom, even if he didn't happen to be the tallest man in the room, prompting one wag to call him the Agency's version of the specter at the feast.
Because of those golden eyes, people would literally stare at him, so long ago he'd taken to wearing large, square-framed European glasses, the kind favored by European movie directors, the lenses lightly tinted to obscure the color of his eyes. He moved through a room carefully, as if unwilling to make physical contact with anything or anyone. He was not one who shook hands; when introduced to someone else he would put his hands behind him like a solicitous undertaker, bend slightly at the waist, look down as if from a great height and just nod.
He was also the dean of the Agency's interrogation section. Whenever the operations directorate had a seriously tough nut to crack, they summoned Allender from his Washington office to the Farm or one of the isolation centers out in the countryside around Washington. Summoning Allender was never a trivial decision. Over the years they'd learned that he would either break the subject's resistance to sharing whatever he knew, or drive him into some kind of mental breakdown state, using techniques of spatial disorientation, those disturbing eyes, and what looked to some an awful lot like an ability to read their minds. He would have smiled at that fantasy, but he did have the ability to anticipate what the subject would say next, sometimes right down to the exact words, and when he enunciated some or all of those words just before the subject did, people watching on the monitors would become just a little bit anxious. The subject would often become very afraid.
He pressed the intercom button and said, "Okay."
Sloan came back in and stood before his desk, looking much more composed this time, although he could see tension in every visible muscle of her body.
"You wish to start over?" he asked.
"Sir" this time, he thought; she must have figured out who I am. He took off his glasses again and saw her swallow when she saw those glowing eyes. "Very well," he said. "Disrobe."
She hesitated for a long moment. Then, looking straight ahead, she took a deep breath, and began unbuttoning her suit jacket. She draped that on one of the chairs and then unbuttoned her blouse, revealing a plain, unadorned bra. The blouse followed the suit coat, and the bra followed the blouse. Allender took care to stare directly into her face the entire time, forcing her to maintain eye contact though she clearly didn't want to. No one did. She kicked off her shoes and then undid a button on the back of her skirt, slid down a small zipper, and stepped out of it, holding on to one of the chairs to keep from toppling over. Beige pantyhose and cotton hipsters remained. She paused for a moment, and then sighed. She thumbed the pantyhose and her panties down in one smooth movement. Finally, everything was off and she stood in front of him in all her glory. She didn't seem to know what to do with her hands and arms, so she simply folded them under her breasts. Then her personality reasserted itself and she cocked her head to one side, raised her eyebrows in an expression that fairly shouted, Do you mind?
Now he did look. He examined her body, which was indeed well made. She was not quite voluptuous, but rather somewhere between the California ideal of a boy with breasts and a Modigliani nude. Her breasts were in proportion to the rest of her body, and her hips were rounded in a pleasing, promising shape. Her pubic area was whiter than the rest of her skin but not yet ready for a summer bathing suit. He kept his expression neutral during his inspection and tried to convey the impression that he was examining a side of beef. He needed the situation to be asexual. She hadn't done any kind of a striptease, and his interest was, for the moment, entirely clinical. After a full minute of inspection, he was pleased to see that she was starting to relax just a bit. He also noticed that her nipples were erect.
"Please be seated," he said, finally, looking away while reopening her file. She sat down in the second chair, the one without the clothes, and once again folded her arms over her chest. "Are you cold?" he asked.
"No," she said.
"Are you embarrassed?"
"You think?" she said.
"I don't know," he replied. "That's why I asked. Do you know who I am?"
"I know — I think that you ..." She ran out of words, unable or unwilling to say that she'd heard of the boss with the unholy amber eyes.
"Let me tell you what I see," he said. "A standard naked lady. A pretty if somewhat outraged face. Two breasts, one a bit larger than the other, taut abs, two thighs, two legs, a patch of hair where all that intersects, a small black mole above your navel, a brown one between your breasts, eyebrows that are naturally shaped and not altered by cosmetics, hints of gray in the roots of your hair, a small scar on your right cheekbone, two fingernails indicating that you sometimes bite your nails, a knee, your right one, which is giving you some pain, probably because your right leg is longer than your left, evidence of a recurring cold sore on your upper lip, right side, and, yes, Ms. Sloan, I think that you are just the slightest bit cold."
"Well, shit," she said, as bravely as she could. "That good?"
He let the hint of a smile flit across his face. "Good enough," he said. "Now look: The point of this exercise relates to the mission. If you are selected to take this on, you are going to have to be able to divest yourself of that intimate relationship a woman has with her body and her underlying psyche. When you, the woman, are in love or even just in lust, you are ready to give your self to your lover. By that I mean you make no distinction between self and body. In the game being contemplated, you will not ever give your self to anyone except your controller, and there will be nothing sexual about that connection. Your body, on the other hand, may be subject to different rules, but in a way you can't yet appreciate."
"So we're talking — what?" she asked "A honey-trap mission?"
"No," he said. "If anything, it's a no-honey trap. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves."
He looked over her shoulder. In deference to Company rules, Carol Mann had come in surreptitiously when the interview began and had been sitting in a chair at the back of the room throughout. "Carol," Allender said. "Take over for a few minutes, please."
Then he turned back to Sloan. "I'm going to step out while you get dressed. Once you've done that, Carol, who is my executive assistant here at the Farm, will conduct a short interview with you. She will be asking you some questions which I have prepared, and possibly some of her own."
Sloan cocked her head to one side again and gave him an appraising look. "Why aren't you asking them?" she said.
"Because I've seen you naked, Ms. Sloan, and I don't want that fact to color your answers until I know you a lot better."
Allender got up without another glance toward Sloan and walked out. Carol came forward from the back of the room, pretending not to notice that Sloan was sitting naked in a chair in front of her boss's desk. Sloan turned in the chair to look up at Carol, who had a folder in her hands.
"Okay," Sloan said. "So maybe you can tell me: What the fuck?"
"Never a dull day with Preston Allender," Carol said. "You want to put your clothes on now, dear? And if it makes you feel any better, I was in the room the entire time that you were, um, déshabillé."
"Oh, great," Sloan said, hustling back into her clothes with as much grace as possible, which wasn't much. "That's truly comforting. Stereo voyeurs. And how many cameras, I wonder."
Carol ignored the sarcasm, went around Allender's desk, and sat down in his high-backed chair. "No cameras, Ms. Sloan," she said. "And it's Doctor Allender, not Mister. He is actually a medical doctor, and, for what it's worth, I'm not much interested in seeing you or any other woman naked. I don't think he is either, although no one is too sure about that."
Excerpted from "Red Swan"
Copyright © 2017 P. T. Deutermann.
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.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Black Swan,
Part II: The Red Swan,
Also by P. T. Deutermann,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm glad that I'm retired, because I had trouble putting this book down to get some sleep.
His military books are 1st class but this is book is awful. I didn't even finish the last 2 chapters. PT....stick to your expertise.