In the icy waters of the northern Pacific, a top-secret mission threatens to explode into a nuclear crisis . . .
A Russian military spy sub lies marooned in American waters near the U.S.-Canadian border. Yuri Kirov, a seasoned security officer, is in charge of the crew's safety--and the operation's success. His only hope is to make a death-defying underwater escape, reach shore undetected, and convince a total stranger that the fate of the world depends on helping him. For software engineer Laura Newman, it's not an easy choice. But with two Russian spies tailing them, and tensions escalating between superpowers, one wrong move could trigger unthinkable devastation.
In the tradition of Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, this electrifying novel of espionage is a gripping tale of danger, courage, and daring decisions.
Includes an exciting excerpt from the next Yuri Kirov thriller, The Forever Spy.
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The Good Spy
By Jeffrey Layton
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Layton
All rights reserved.
Day 2 — Tuesday
Kirov plowed into the gloom. The firestorm deep inside his right shoulder raged but he hung on. He'd lost all sensation below the left knee — it was just dead meat. If the unfeeling crept into his other limbs he was doomed for sure.
He focused on the captain's orders: "Get to shore. Call for help and then coordinate the rescue. Don't get caught!"
He was the crew's only hope. If he failed, they would all perish.
The diver propulsion vehicle surged against the aggressive tidal current. As he gripped the DPV's control handles with both gloved hands, his body trailed prone on the sea surface. Hours earlier he'd exhausted the mixed gas supply, which forced him topside where he used a snorkel to breathe.
The chilled seawater defeated his synthetic rubber armor. His teeth chattered against the snorkel's mouthpiece. He clamped his jaws to maintain the watertight seal.
Shore lights shimmered through his face mask but he remained miles from his destination. The DPV's battery gauge kissed the warning range. When it eventually petered out, he would have to transit the passage on his own, somehow swimming the expanse in the dark while combating the current.
Two grueling hours passed. He abandoned the spent DPV, opening the flood valve and allowing it to sink. He butted the tidal flow until it turned. The flooding current carried him northward.
He swam facedown while still breathing through the snorkel. As he pumped his lower limbs, his good leg overpowered its anesthetized twin, forcing him off course. He soon learned to compensate with his left arm, synchronizing its strokes with his right leg.
The joint pain expanded to include both shoulders and elbows. The frigid sea sapped his vigor to near exhaustion.
While staring downward into the pitch-black abyss, he tried not to dwell on his injuries or his weariness — or the absolute isolation, knowing he could do nothing to mitigate them. Instead, his thoughts converged on the mission. They're counting on me. Don't give up. I can do this; just keep moving.
He continued swimming, monitoring his course with the compass strapped to his right wrist. An evolving mantle of fog doused the shore lights he'd been using as a homing beacon. For all he knew, the current could be shoving him into deeper waters.
Maybe at dawn he would be able to get his bearings. Until then, he would plod along.
I wonder where the blackfish are now.
During a rest with fins down and a fresh bubble of air in his buoyancy compensator, he heard dozens of watery eruptions breach the night air as a pod of Orcinus orcas made its approach. Sounding like a chorus of steam engines, the mammals cleared blowholes and sucked air into their mammoth lungs. The sea beasts ghosted by at ten knots. Their slick coal-black hulls spotted with white smears passed just a few meters away from his stationary position.
The killer whales ignored him. They had a mission of their own: pursuing the plump inbound silver and chum salmon that loitered near the tip of the approaching peninsula. At first light, the orcas would gorge themselves.
There was no time to be afraid; instead, he marveled at the close encounter. Oddly, the whales' brief presence calmed him. He was not alone in these alien waters after all.
Time for another check.
He stopped kicking and raised his head. He peered forward.
Still no lights and the fog bank oozed even closer.
Where is it?
He allowed his legs to sink as he mulled his options. His right fin struck something.
He swam ahead for half a minute and repeated the sounding.
I made it!CHAPTER 2
Laura Newman sat on the tile floor with her long chocolate legs bent sharply at the knees and her spine propped against a cabinet. She wore only a plain white T-shirt.
Laura cradled her abdomen with both hands; her stomach broiled. "Oh Lord," she moaned. "What's wrong with me?"
It was 6:18 A.M. Jolted awake, she'd just made it to the bathroom before the first purge.
Ten minutes elapsed. Feeling better, Laura stood and walked back into the bedroom. She slipped on a bathrobe. Knowing further sleep would be impossible, she decided to brew a cup of tea. If her stomach settled down, she'd jog along the beach after sunup.
This was the third morning her unsettled tummy had roused her. She suspected stress. The demands from work never ceased, but she'd learned to live with it.
Laura opened the bedroom door and walked down the second-floor hallway of the rented beach house. She flipped on a light switch, illuminating the stairway. When she reached the base of the stairs, her bare feet stepped into a pool of water that covered oak flooring. What's this? Laura wondered.
She took a few more steps on her way to the kitchen.
Laura stood opposite a doorway that opened onto a concrete walkway; it led to the beach. Although the side door remained closed, the door frame's splintered molding by the lock had not been that way when she went to bed.
Laura's muscles locked; her heart galloped.
Oh God, no! He's found me already.
Laura recovered enough to sidestep her dread. I've got to get out of here.
Laura was reaching for the side door's handle, when she heard movement from behind. She started to turn when a damp, gloved hand clutched her mouth. An arm ensnared her waist.
Laura shrieked but her muffled cries went nowhere.CHAPTER 3
"Stop struggling or I'll cut you!"
Pinned by the intruder's bulk on the hardwood flooring, Laura complied when she felt the knife tip on her throat.
He sensed her capitulation and withdrew the blade. He rolled off Laura onto his knees but kept his eyes on her. He stood. The blade remained in his right hand.
"Get up," he ordered, offering his free hand as an assist.
* * *
Sunlight poured through the waterside windows. Laura sat in the dining room chair, still wearing the bathrobe. Gray duct tape anchored her wrists and ankles to the chair. The intruder was in the adjoining living room. He'd just built a fire in the stone fireplace. The cedar kindling crackled to life.
Laura observed her captor. Standing at least an inch over six feet, he had a muscular build, slate-gray eyes, and dense jet-black hair cut short. His angular face sprouted several days' worth of black stubble. She guessed his age around her own — early thirties.
Laura watched as he shed the diving apparel. He piled the gear onto the hardwood floor next to a window. He wore cobalt-blue coveralls under his neoprene dry suit.
Obviously injured, he favored his left leg as he moved about. He hobbled into the dining room.
That's when Laura decided to confront him.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"Just stay quiet."
"Who are you?"
"Where did you come from?"
"Stop asking questions."
"Why were you in diving gear?"
* * *
More tape secured a dishcloth he'd stuffed inside Laura's mouth. It encircled her head in two orbits, restraining her shoulder-length auburn hair. If she turned too far, hair at the nape of her neck pulled viciously. She had to sit statue-stiff, peering at a blank wall.
But she could still see him — out of the corner of her left eye.
Laura's captor was about twenty feet away on the sofa by the fireplace. After a thirty-minute catnap, he sat upright and stretched his arms. He picked up her smartphone from the coffee table. He must have discovered it on the nightstand in her bedroom. There were no other working telephones in the rental.
He keyed the phone, studying the screen. Laura guessed he was running a search. A couple of minutes later, he dialed.
"I'd like to speak with the security officer," he said.
There was a trace accent but Laura couldn't place it.
He was mute for a minute before responding, "Yes, I want to report an accident."
The call lasted ten minutes. None of what he said made any sense to Laura. Some doctor had been in an automobile accident and was in a Seattle hospital. And he'd asked for a "security officer." What was that about?
The intruder nodded off again, his head slumping forward.
What is this jerk up to?
* * *
It was almost noon. Laura's spine ached and her limbs cramped, but her bladder demanded relief. She couldn't hold it much longer.
"Heyyyy!" she blurted in spite of the gag.
His eyes blinked open.
She called out again, louder.
He stood and shuffled toward her.
"What is it?" he asked. Now his accent sounded Eastern European.
He leaned forward and pulled down a section of tape covering her mouth.
She spat out the dishcloth and met his eyes. "Please — I need to use the bathroom." Her frail voice transmitted a palpable quaver.
She gestured with her head, ripping half a dozen strands of hair anchored by tape.
He spotted the open door near the base of the stairs. "Oh, you need to use the toilet."
He replaced the gag and then limped to the bathroom. After inspecting its interior, he returned to Laura where he withdrew his dive knife from a scabbard lying on the nearby coffee table. He sliced the tape that anchored her arms and legs to the chair. She stood as quickly as her cramped muscles would allow.
With the knife still in his right hand he said, "You can use it but the door stays open. And don't touch the window."
Laura nodded her understanding and made a beeline for the bathroom. He followed.
She walked inside, immune to the embarrassment. Laura was thankful to be alive.CHAPTER 4
"Aloha," he said, speaking into the cell phone. "I'd like Laura Newman's room.
"That's right, Laura Newman. From Redmond ... Washington State.
"Hmm, she's not registered ... you know, she might be using her maiden name, Laura Lynn Wilson. Could you check that for me?"
Half a minute passed. "No luck there, either. Well, I guess I got some bum info. Thanks."
Ken Newman had already called fourteen hotel and condominium resorts on Kauai, and as on his last call, he'd failed. There were nearly twenty more to go.
He'd searched the Web for an hour, compiling a list of candidates. He concentrated on four- and five-star establishments; he knew his wife's preferences. He would check the remaining resorts but didn't expect the effort to yield anything.
Ken called from his Spartan studio apartment in Bellevue, sitting at the kitchen table. Dirty dishes overfilled the sink, sports magazines and newspapers littered the coffee table, and a two-foot-high pile of soiled clothing occupied a corner by the window. They'd been living apart for four months. The previous morning a King County sheriff's deputy had served him with the breakup papers and a temporary restraining order.
But Ken wasn't done.
Laura had changed cell phones so he'd called her secretary this morning, ignoring the no contact order. Ken learned that Laura had flown to Kauai for a two-week vacation. He had no reason to doubt the secretary's storyline but remained suspicious.
Ken retrieved a coffee mug from the table. As he sipped, he planned.
Tonight he would drive to Sea-Tac and cruise the huge parking garage's aisles. If Laura had parked her silver BMW 7 Series at the airport, he'd know that she'd fled. If he didn't find it, she might still be around.
* * *
"Why are you doing this to me?" Laura asked.
"Just cooperate and you'll be fine."
Laura again sat in the dining room chair, her wrists and ankles re-taped to the chair's mahogany armrests and legs. An eight-place black marble table occupied the room. The view of the beach and the water's edge — just steps away — was dazzling.
Sweat beaded across Laura's brow. Her captor stood at her side, a half-full water glass in hand. She leaned forward and took another gulp, draining the glass.
Her thirst satisfied, she said, "Thank you."
He was about to reseal her mouth when Laura turned her head to the side. "Please, don't gag me. My stomach's bothering me; I might vomit."
"All right, for now I won't but keep quiet. I need to rest."
"I will — I promise."
Laura watched as he made his way back to the connecting living room; his limp had worsened. He lay down on the sofa facing the fireplace. Searing heat radiated from the fresh charge of fuel.
He'd turned up the home's gas furnace to maximum, too, roasting Laura.
What's wrong with him?
* * *
He hobbled onto the timber deck, dragging his useless lower left leg. The mid-afternoon sky was cloudless, allowing the sun to bathe his body; it had been weeks since he'd last felt its touch.
Water lapped at the rock revetment fronting the home. In the distance, a mammoth ship steamed northward, its decks overflowing with hundreds of shipping containers.
Although no longer chilled to his marrow, he remained unpleasantly cool. A wool blanket from a bedroom encased his shoulders and upper torso. He also shed the jumpsuit, replacing it with the civilian clothing he'd carried during the ascent. The waterproof bag leaked, soaking the blue jeans, black long sleeve shirt, running shoes, and other gear. He discovered the home's laundry room, where he washed and dried the garments.
He unconsciously shook his head, still amazed that he had survived. It could have been much worse. The bends could have just as easily killed him, or he could have succumbed to hypothermia.
Why had God spared him?
His mother had sparked his early belief, but her guidance ceased after his twelfth birthday and his faith withered. Nevertheless, his impermeable armor of disregard now had a couple of chinks in it. Surviving the sinking came first. His solo escape followed.
He again wondered why he was alive when so many others were not.
His thoughts dissolved as something caught his eye far in the distance. The floatplane cruised northward up the inland sea, about two hundred meters above the water. He couldn't help but think that it probably passed right over the Neva.
* * *
Seven nautical miles to the southeast and over seven hundred feet below the surface, the Neva's crew was oblivious to the Kenmore Air charter. The beat of the Beaver's propeller penetrated the water but never reached the stranded submarine.
Underwater sounds rarely travel in a straight line. Instead, they refract or bend due to varying temperature, salinity, and pressure. On this afternoon, the only sounds that the Neva's passive sonar sensors registered were biologics.
The thirty-four-year-old slightly balding and fleshy engineering officer left the central command post and entered the sonar room. Catapulted to acting-captain status nearly forty hours earlier, he hoped for good news.
"Anything new?" he asked the sole inhabitant of the compartment. Packed with electronic gear from the deck to the overhead, the space contained three consoles.
"No, Captain," said the technician, a man in his early twenties sitting in the center console.
They spoke in their native tongue — Russian.
The tech removed his earphones and flipped a switch on his console, activating a bulkhead speaker. The sound of bacon sizzling on a grill broadcast throughout the compartment. "Still the same biologic we've had all day long — fornicating shrimp."
"I did pick up a ship's propeller. Merchantmen most likely headed to Vancouver."
"How about small vessels?"
"No, sir, nothing like that. In our degraded condition, they would need to be close by for our remaining sensors to register."
The commanding officer nodded. He'd anticipated something more encouraging. The diver should have made it to the shore by now. Still, it was early.
"Captain, how's the scrubber repair going?"
"It's working again. CO-two is stabilized."
"Good ... that's good." The sonar tech scratched the stubble on his chin. "And the reactors?"
"We're still bailing out muck. We might be able to test a heat exchanger in a few hours. Once circulation is reestablished, we should be able to restart Unit Two."
"That will help a lot."
"Yes, it will."
Neither man wanted to ask the ultimate "what if" question: What if they couldn't restart the reactor?
Excerpted from The Good Spy by Jeffrey Layton. Copyright © 2016 Jeffrey Layton. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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