Charlie McKenzie is the best at what he does, and what he does is covert operations. At least he did until the U.S. government betrayed him and he ended up in jail.
He's now a free man, but he's never forgiven the people who locked him up and wouldn't even give him a pass to attend his beloved wife's funeral. But the government is in big trouble when a beautiful Russian spy gets her hands on a top-secret "cloaking device" called Whirlwind. Only Charlie McKenzie has what it takes to find the Russian agent and retrieve the stolen device.
Charlie's smart enough to exact a huge payment for the job, and even more important, set it up so his employers can't betray him again. But even Charlie's intricate plans may fail to keep him safe when the weak-spined Secretary of State, who personally hates Charlie, brings in a murderous South African soldier of fortune and puts him on the spy's - and Charlie's - trail.
|Product dimensions:||4.14(w) x 7.16(h) x 1.45(d)|
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Tuesday, July 21.
0700 Hours Eastern Time,
0500 Hours Mountain Time
Charlie McKenzie glared over the rims of his half-moon reading glasses. Shuffling his Washington Post in what he hoped was, but suspected was not, an intimidating manner, he reached for his coffee. A newspaper, a cup of coffee, a dozy cat in his lap, and a peaceful morning in which to enjoy them -- were they not every man's natural-born prerogatives?
Hugging two-year-old Jason to her hip, Carly brandished a portable telephone. "Dad," she said breathlessly. "It's the White House! The national security advisor!"
Apparently his daughter held the rights of men, or at least males, in low esteem. Charlie had no one to blame but himself. Up until the day she died, Mary had insisted that Carly certainly did not get that sort of behavior from her side of the family.
He turned in his wicker chair, looking out beyond the screened porch, past the long green expanse of a stately lawn, down to Chesapeake Bay. It was a lovely summer morning, bright but not yet hot. Perfect weather as far as the eye could see -- except in the climatological zone directly above Charlie's thundercloud brow. "Tell him to go piss up a rope."
"Tiss upa row," echoed Jason. To which Molly, aged six and peeking around her mother's skirts, added, "Mommy, Jason's saying dirty words."
"Your grandfather's influence. Again!" hissed Carly, thrusting the phone into Charlie's lap, then dragging her children away from what doubtless would be another bad example.
Charlie raised the phone to his ear. He spoke softly, gently. "Mornin', Sam."
An unctuous answer, amiability's illusion in every syllable: "Charlie! It's good to hear you, man! Thank God I caught you at home! Listen, there's a problem, a helluva problem, and the president personally asked that I call -- "
Speaking in the gentlemanly tones of a sweetly reasonable soul, Charlie interrupted. "Give him my best personal regards, and tell him I said he can screw himself."
The portable phone chirped like a digital bird as Charlie fingered the Off button.
Eight seconds, he estimated as he glanced at his outrageously garish wristwatch, a solid gold Rolex President with numbers set in colored gemstones. The preposterous thing was a gift from the Philippine government. That figured. No one in that part of the world had a bit of taste.
... three, four, five ...
As opposed, for example, to the Italians. It was one of their presidents -- who could remember which, they never stayed out of jail long enough to make memorizing their names worth the effort -- who'd given Charlie the monumentally expensive, solid silver Faema espresso maker whose ambrosia he was savoring at this very moment.
... six, seven, eight ... Ring!
Perfect timing. Charlie McKenzie never missed. Clicking the On button, he smiled beatifically, a man who had been waiting two long years for Sam to call, and who planned to enjoy himself mightily now that the rolypoly little weasel needed help. "Okay, Sam, if bunny brains doesn't know how to do it, tell him first thing he needs a dildo."
Sam's oiliness had dissipated. "Charlie, we don't have time for this."
"'Dildo' usually is synonymous with 'national security advisor,' but not this time."
Now Sam was feigning sincerity. "This is an emergency. More than an emergency. The word 'crisis' doesn't even begin -- "
"And an industrial-strength motor, the kind they use to run jackhammers."
Goodbye sincerity, hello desperation. "Okay, okay, whatever you want. Name it. It's yours." He paused, then hastily added, "Short of an apology, that is."
Charlie ran a hand down his stubbled cheek. He'd have to shave before Sam showed up on his doorstep. And that would be -- he eyed his watch -- in fifty-seven minutes. "Anything, Sam?"
"If it's in my power, yes."
Yup, definitely desperation. It was a step in the right direction. "Ten million dollars." Charlie heard a barely audible Shit! "The actuarial tables tell me I've got another thirty-five years to live. Ten million works out to about two hundred and eighty grand a year. That's not much in light of my decades of loyal and faithful service."
"Put it in T-bills, and the interest is three hundred thousand."
Charlie snorted, "Hey, Sam, if you're so good at math, how come the White House can't balance the budget?"
"Quit busting my chops." He cleared his throat before predictably wheedling, "I don't suppose I could appeal to your patriotism?"
Charlie pictured the expression on Sam's pudgy face: slit-eyed calculation. It always was. "You did that last time. This time I'll take cash."
"Damnit, man, you know there's no way I can come up with ten million -- "
"The president's discretionary fund. The unaudited and unpoliced account Congress dispenses once per annum. Everyone since Millard Fillmore has used it to pay for botched assassinations, fund quote-freedom fighters-unquote, and compensate that compliant abortionist on J Street who caters to careless interns."
"This is a pro-life administration, and you know it."
Rumor had it that beneath his exquisitely shellacked exterior, Sam concealed a dangerously explosive temper. Too bad Charlie liked playing with fireworks. "Same as every other administration, the only thing you're pro is pro-reelection."
"Jesus, what turned you into such a cynic?"
"A lifetime in government service."
There was a long silence, broken only by the nearly inaudible drum of Sam's fingers on his desk. Charlie smiled. Charlie waited. And, just as Charlie expected, Sam caved in: "Ten million. Okay. I can handle that. It won't be easy, but I think -- "
"Think? You've never thought in your life, Sam. Connived, schemed, and plotted? Sure. But thinking? Uh-uh, no."
"All I'm saying is that it will take time."
"That it will. Five minutes to be precise. I'm logging on to my Swiss bank then. If my account is ten million dollars plumper than it was yesterday, I'll answer the phone when you call back. If not ... " Charlie regretted Sam couldn't see his fine and wolfish smirk ". . . then not. Bye now, Sam."
"No! Wait! I don't have your account number!"
"Oh, spare me! My personnel file is on your desk, and my account number is right there on the first page."
"Err ... why, so it is, but -- "
The phone chirped merrily, a happy little songbird soon to be fed.
Charlie polished off his coffee, set his partially read newspaper on a wicker table, and ambled back into the house. The porch led directly to his den. His Apple PowerBook computer was already alive, alert, and scanning the Internet for such dubious data as people like Charlie always found beguiling.
He pecked out his Swiss bank's computer address, entered his password, and was just in time to watch his account grow from the token thousand dollars he kept in it to ten million, one thousand dollars and no (0) cents.
Charlie reached beneath his desk and threw a toggle switch. The computer screen flickered. His modem was no longer connected to the ultrahigh- bandwidth line the Agency had kindly let him keep after dispensing with his services. Charlie was now dialing into the World Wide Web via an ordinary telephone line.
Well, not entirely ordinary .... Whirlwind
A Novel. Copyright © by Joseph Garber. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.