The U.S. Navy made him the ultimate killer. Now they can't stop him...
It begins with a routine police investigation. A beautiful woman is dead. A detective needs answers. And a newly appointed Pentagon admiral is scrambling for his career and for his life. Suddenly, the inner ring of the Pentagon is being rocked by a living nightmare: a Sweeper-a trained covert assassin, an ex-SEAL scarred by one horrific episode in Vietnam-has gone rogue. And his killing has just begun...
With a searing insider's view of Pentagon politics, retired Navy captain P.T. Deutermann writes military suspense worthy of Tom Clancy and Nelson DeMile. Now, in his electrifying new novel, a powerful ex-Marine and a courageous woman face a kill zone: of deception, ambition, and sweeping revenge...
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
P.T. Deutermann is the author of Zero Option, Official Privilege, The Edge of Honor, and Scorpion in the Sea. He is a retired Navy captain and has served both in the Navy's political staff directorate and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives in Georgia.
P. T. DEUTERMANN is the author of many previous novels including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent twenty-six years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
By P. T. Deutermann
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1997 P. T. Deutermann
All rights reserved.
The Pentagon, Washington, D.C.,
Monday, 10 April 1995
Rear Adm. Thomas V. Carpenter, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, was perplexed as he stared up at his aide over his half-lens reading glasses.
"A cop? A Fairfax County homicide cop? Wants to see me?"
His aide nodded. "Yes, sir. He just showed up here, with an escort from the security office. Says he needs to talk to you. Won't say what about, Admiral."
Carpenter leaned back in his chair. "Well, hell's bells. Send him in. But first get Captain McCarty. I want —"
"The executive assistant is on his way, Admiral."
"Yeah. Okay. Good. Soon as he's here, bring 'em in."
The aide left the office. Frowning, Carpenter swiveled around in his chair to look out the windows. His office was a large square room, paneled and carpeted, with shelves of legal books lining two walls, a conference table with leather-trimmed armchairs, an ancient leather couch, and three upholstered chairs arranged to face his desk. Behind his desk, a steel flag stand displayed the American flag and his personal two-star flag denoting a rear admiral of the staff corps. Carpenter was one star short of having an office out on the prestigious E-ring.
There was a knock on the heavy mahogany door, and Capt. Dan McCarty, his Pentagon executive assistant, came through the door. McCarty, with twenty-nine years of service, was tall and thin, and he wore square horn-rimmed glasses that made him look bookish.
"A Fairfax County homicide detective, Admiral? You finally shoot one of those budgeteers?"
"That's a thought," Carpenter growled. "There's some who desperately need it. But to answer your question, I haven't the foggiest. Let's get him in here. I have to see the Secretary in thirty minutes."
The executive assistant opened the door and beckoned to the aide, who escorted the detective into the office. Carpenter was struck by how well dressed he was: expensive-looking three-piece suit, polished shoes, a flash of cuff links. Mid-thirties, and in good physical shape. His stereotype of the scruffy-looking, coffee-stained, potbellied, cigarette-smoking TV homicide detective took a serious hit. This guy looked like a real pro. The policeman introduced himself as Detective McNair of the Fairfax County Homicide Section, sat down on the couch, and took out his notebook.
"Admiral," McNair began. "You are the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, is that correct?"
"That's right. I'm the JAG. I work for the Secretary of the Navy. I run the Navy's legal corps, and provide military law counsel to the Navy."
"Yes, sir." McNair nodded. "I've come to see you at the recommendation of the Defense Investigative Service. We're working a situation, and frankly, we're not sure what to do with it. It involves a Navy admiral. Sort of, I mean."
Carpenter leaned forward. "'Sort of,' Detective?"
McNair closed his notebook. "I guess I'm not being very clear. Last Friday night, a woman had a fatal accident in a town house out in Reston. At least it looks like an accident at this stage of our investigation. She apparently fell down a flight of stairs — from the main floor going down to the basement. She broke her neck in the fall. A neighbor found her Saturday morning. Her name was Elizabeth Walsh."
"Sorry to hear it. But you said 'apparently'?" Carpenter was still in the dark.
"Well, sir, she definitely broke her neck. What we're not too sure about is the genesis of the fall."
"So this is a possible homicide? Is that what you're saying?"
"Remote possibility, Admiral," McNair replied. "There's some, ah, disagreement in the Homicide Section as to what we really have here."
"Disagreement," Carpenter said, looking over at his executive assistant.
"And why, specifically, should the Navy care, Detective?" asked McCarty, getting right to it.
"Yes, sir. I was coming to that," McNair replied. "As I said, we're not sure that this is anything but an accident. But on the possibility that it was not an accident, one of the things we checked for was a possible motive. If she was killed, say, pushed down the stairs, and I'll admit that we have no direct evidence of that, but if she was, then we have to ask why?"
"'Cui bono'?" McCarty said. "Who benefits from her death?"
"Yes, sir. Exactly. And someone does. Her lawyer told us there was an insurance policy — a big one. Two hundred fifty thousand, to be precise. The beneficiary was one —" He consulted his notebook. "One Rear Admiral W. T. Sherman. The Defense Department phone book says he's assigned here at the Pentagon, on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations."
Carpenter drew a blank on the name. He looked over at his executive assistant again, his eyebrows raised in a silent question.
"He's fresh-caught, Admiral," McCarty explained. "Last year's selection list. He runs the Surface Warfare Requirements Division in OP-03. I think he's been on board for about a year as a flag officer. Before that, he was the executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Personnel."
"Oh, right," Carpenter said. "Got it. I remember him. Now, this insurance-policy business. This makes Admiral Sherman a suspect of some sort?"
"No, sir. There's no crime, at least not so far. Like I said, there is no evidence of a homicide. There are some, um, forensic ambiguities. Which is why I'm here talking to you instead of going directly to interview Admiral Sherman. Basically, I'm here to ask a favor. Would you arrange a meeting between Admiral Sherman and us? An entirely informal meeting?"
Carpenter was starting to get the picture. "You mean as opposed to a formal police interview? Something we could call a conversation, say? So that we don't have it getting out that the Fairfax County Police Department is interviewing a Navy admiral in connection with a possible homicide, when all you have are — what was it —'forensic ambiguities'?"
"Yes, sir." McNair nodded.
Carpenter sat back in his chair. "Let me speculate further," he said. "You went to your commonwealth attorney, told him you had a feeling about this case, and said you wanted to talk to Admiral Sherman. The CA told you to be very damn careful about pulling in a flag officer when you didn't have any sort of case. Said he didn't want any federal heat about harassment, or to listen to legions of federal lawyers raising hell because something got loose in the press."
"His very words, sir," McNair said admiringly.
Carpenter nodded. "Detective, we appreciate your discretion, and of course we'll be happy to cooperate. I'll speak to Admiral Sherman right away, and I'm sure we can work something out — as long as you can assure both of us when we meet that he is not suspected of any crimes. I will be present for this meeting, and I'll want the right to shut it off if I think it's going astray, all right?"
"Yes, sir," McNair said. "I have no problems with that."
"I'll have my aide get back to you this afternoon, Detective."
McCarty remained behind after the aide shut the door.
"I'm amazed," Carpenter said.
"That they would be so discreet?"
"Yes. I mean, admiral or no admiral, we're all citizens first. If there's been a homicide out there in civvy street, they'd have every right to go see him, or ask him to come down and see them."
"Well, he did say that they're not sure they even have a homicide."
"I guess I'm glad. Our friendly hometown newspaper would love a little morsel like this. Okay, Dan, call this guy Sherman and have him come up and see me this afternoon. And get me his bio."
"Would you like me to handle this one, Admiral? Or maybe the Deputy? Keep you at arm's length and all that?"
Carpenter thought about that for a moment. "We might do that eventually. But let me see his bio first, see if I know this guy Sherman."
At 5:30 that afternoon, Captain McCarty brought Carpenter a manila folder. "This is the bio on Admiral Sherman," he said. "The picture was taken when he was a captain, but he doesn't look much different."
"That'll change," Carpenter observed as he opened the file.
"He's waiting out front, Admiral. If you'll buzz me when you're ready ..."
"Just give me a minute to look at this and then you can bring him in."
While McCarty waited, Carpenter looked at the photo for a minute before scanning the career biography. The photo was that of a very young-looking officer with the sharp eyes and the taut-skinned face of an athlete. The face was composed in an expression of watchful authority that bespoke command at sea. He wore five rows of awards and decorations, which indicated he had wartime service in Vietnam. The insignia worn over the ribbons indicated a surface-warfare specialist.
He scanned the bio page. Naval Academy, class of '66. First ship was a destroyer in San Diego. Then a year and a bit in the gunboat Navy, down in the Mekong Delta. Fun times, that must have been. Then department-head school in Newport, a second tour in another destroyer in San Diego. Then graduate school up at Monterey. Exec in yet another destroyer, then off to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington. "Ah," he said out loud. "The Bureau. He was a detailer." Both of them knew that being a personnel assignment officer was one of the surer routes to the flag-selection boardroom. After seeing the Bureau of Naval Personnel item, Carpenter barely scanned the rest of Sherman's record.
"Okay," he said. "Professionally good enough to get that first job as a detailer, and politically good enough to get another one. I wonder who his patron saint was."
"He was executive assistant to Admiral Galen Schmidt," McCarty said. "Just before Admiral Schmidt's ticker trouble forced him to retire."
Carpenter nodded. "Schmidt would have made a great CNO," he said. "And young Sherman would not be coming to see me if Schmidt were the CNO today. Okay, he's something of a pretty boy, and I distrust pretty boys. Jealousy, I suppose. Bring him in, please."
McCarty smiled and left the room, returning a few seconds later with the officer in the picture.
"Sorry about the delay, Admiral," Carpenter said in a formal tone. "The Deputy SecNav called precisely at seventeen-thirty." It was a small lie, but he expected Sherman to be adept enough to swallow it.
"No problem, Admiral," Sherman replied.
"Thank you, Dan," Carpenter said to his executive assistant, who nodded and left the room. "Admiral Sherman, it's a pleasure to see you again, especially as a flag officer. Congratulations." Carpenter smiled as he said it, but he watched to see if the younger officer understood that the JAG was reminding him who was the senior officer in the room.
"Thank you, sir," Sherman replied. "Even after a year, I'm still getting used to it."
"I'll bet you are. Please sit down."
When Sherman had taken one of the chairs in front of the desk, Carpenter walked him through the morning's visit from the police.
"I'm sure Dan told you that this concerns the Fairfax County Police. I had a visit today from a homicide detective. They are investigating an apparent accident that involved a woman having a fall in her town house in Reston."
"In Reston?" Sherman asked quickly. Carpenter saw a look of alarm cross Sherman's face. He leaned forward before Sherman could say anything.
"The woman died of her injuries. An Elizabeth Walsh." He stopped when he saw the alarm in Sherman's face change to shock. "You didn't know about this? Was she someone close?"
The color was draining out of Sherman's face. He appeared to struggle for words.
"I — yes. I didn't know anything had happened," he stammered. "I — we — we used to date. I've known her for three years or so. When did this happen?"
Admiral Carpenter suddenly felt as if he had been caught off base. Automatically, he looked around for his executive assistant, then shook his head. "This apparently happened three days ago. Friday night. The homicide cop showed up here this morning. They're investigating her death. I guess because she died by misadventure — you know, as opposed to dying in a hospital with a doctor present. I think the cops are called anytime there's an unexplained death."
"But what —"
Carpenter felt genuinely embarrassed now. He should have thought of this — that no one had told this guy. McCarty should have checked. "He said that there was no direct evidence of foul play. But they pulled the usual strings, and they found out that she had a life-insurance policy, a pretty big one. And apparently you're the beneficiary."
"Me? Life insurance? Elizabeth?" Sherman was shaking his head. "So I'm a suspect of some kind? In a murder case?"
"No, no, no," Carpenter said, waving his hand. "That's why they came to see me first. There is no murder case. There's apparently no evidence of foul play. I think they just want to talk to you." Sherman was obviously in a state of emotional shock. "Look, you want a glass of water or something? Coffee? A drink maybe?"
Sherman was still shaking his head, his eyes unfocused. "No thank you, sir. I saw her — what, three weeks ago. I can't believe this."
"Yes. Damn. I am very sorry. I just assumed ... well, I don't know what I was thinking. But back to the cops. You know how they are — they go with what they've got. They have to investigate. You're apparently the only human tied in some fashion, however indirect, to her death, so they want to talk to you."
"But what —"
Carpenter interrupted him again. "It's not what you're thinking. I think they're just running down their standard-procedure checklist. And the guy who came to see me said they disagreed among themselves if it even was a homicide."
Sherman got up, then sat down again, his hands flailing a little bit, as if he still couldn't grasp it. "Elizabeth and I dated for nearly three years," he said. "I'm divorced, you know. Well, hell, of course you don't know."
Carpenter nodded encouragingly. He felt like a clod for just dropping the bomb on this poor guy.
"But we saw each other in a pretty meaningful way until about six months ago. We — she — finally realized that our relationship wasn't going where she wanted it to go. She's a bright, attractive woman. She wanted to get married."
"Ah. And you did not, I take it."
"Right, sir. First time around cured me of that. And that's something I had told her from the very start. Anyway, we agreed to part company. Only fair thing to do, the way I saw it. But we missed each other. From time to time, we got together. We did well together. But the long-term relationship essentially was over. Now we're just good friends, as they say. And I knew nothing about any insurance policy."
"I mean, I guess we were just good friends. Hell, this is terrible." He put his hands up to his face and rubbed his cheeks.
Carpenter got up and went over to the window, giving Sherman a minute to compose himself. Then he came back and sat down.
"What he wanted to do is to meet with you," he said. "Informally. I told him I would arrange it, but only if I could be present. I also told him I would shut the meeting off if it started to look like anything but a friendly chat. I recommend you agree to this, and that we do it soon, like tomorrow. You understand that they don't have to do it this way, right? They could just call you downtown or wherever the cops are headquartered in Fairfax County. But I think they're actually trying to be discreet. Since you're a flag officer, that is."
Sherman nodded, although it was obvious that his thoughts were spiraling elsewhere.
"So why don't I have my office coordinate with your office on the calendars, and then we'll get this over and done with, okay?"
"Yes, of course," Sherman said. "And I appreciate your intervention, Admiral."
Carpenter nodded and stood up. Sherman remained seated until he realized the meeting was over. He stood up as well.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Admiral," Carpenter said. "And I apologize for just dropping a bomb like that."
Sherman nodded but said nothing as he left.
Carpenter scanned Sherman's bio again while he waited for Sherman to get clear of his outer office. Something about the Vietnam assignment had ticked his memory, but he could not quite put his finger on it. He buzzed for McCarty, who came in with his ever-present notebook at the ready.
Excerpted from Sweepers by P. T. Deutermann. Copyright © 1997 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.
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What People are Saying About This
"An explosive drama...Sweepers is a smooth blend of Pentagon politics, revenge, murder and mystery."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My wife bought this for me. I had never read this author before but gave it a shot. Really, really enjoyed it. Will definitely read others by P.T. Deutermann. I also like Robert Parker, Jack Higgins and David Morrell