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“I’m not so sure.”

“Let’s be clear on one thing.” Rapp stepped closer. “If you break that oath you took . . . I wouldn’t dream of hurting your family.” He lowered his voice and added, “But I will kill you. It won’t be easy, and it’ll probably haunt me for the rest of my life, but this is bigger than our friendship.”



RAPP parked in the underground garage and proceeded to the director’s private elevator. Kennedy had made arrangements for him to use it when he wanted to get into and out of the building without being seen and stopped, which was often. Rapp wasn’t a big fan of headquarters and stayed away as much as possible. Due to the unique nature of his job, however, he couldn’t always pick up the phone and tell Kennedy what he was up to. They had both been trained by Thomas Stansfield, a World War II icon, to never assume that a secure phone was secure just because a technician announced it was. The history of espionage was riddled with stories of great nations’ assuming their communications were safe only to find out after being trounced by their enemy that they had been compromised. There were times, however, when logistics, distance, and operational constraints necessitated a phone call. The key at that point was to keep things vague, but if you were in the process of doing something that might land your hide in jail, then you’d better sit down and have the talk in person.

Rapp entered the elevator, pressed the top button, and as the doors began to close, he thought of Nash. Decking him hadn’t bothered Rapp a bit. They were not analysts; they were front-line operatives who lived in a physical world of sparring and training. Judo, karate, wrestling, kickboxing, they practiced it all. Rapp himself was a devotee of the Gracie style of jujitsu and Nash, having been a state high school wrestling champ, was no pushover. Rapp knew more tricks and had never been bested by the slightly younger Nash, but the fact that Rapp had been able to knock him on his ass with one well-delivered palm strike said more about Nash’s mental state than one might imagine. If Nash ever came to his senses, he’d probably thank Rapp for knocking him on his ass. That’s the way Marines were wired. They could get pissed as all hell in the middle of a fight, but after things had calmed down, they would laugh at their own stupidity. They weren’t the type to be obsessed with the past. What was eating away at Rapp was the fact that he never saw it coming. Nash had been his recruit. The guy was a natural. Tough as nails, yet relaxed enough that he wouldn’t look like a robot the way a lot of the military guys did when they tried to transition into other careers.

Not more than two weeks ago Nash would have been the first guy in line to punch Adams’s ticket, and now he was wringing his hands like one of those blowing-in-the-wind politicians on the Hill. Rapp had seen a few guys burn out and crash land. Their line of work wasn’t exactly stress-free. More often than not they would bounce back after a little R&R, but occasionally a guy would end up in a free fall like some druggy who’d taken a bad acid trip. Rapp could only think of one time when that had happened and the guy had to be put down like a rabid dog. He didn’t even want to think they might end up there with Nash. Rapp knew his wife and kids well. Nash was a good family man and a friend, and unfortunately he also knew too much.

The elevator stopped and the second the doors opened, Rapp sensed something was up. Two of the director’s bodyguards were standing post, both of her assistants were on the phone, and there wasn’t a single Secret Service agent in sight. Even if the president were running late, a couple of the advance guys should already be here keeping an eye on things. Rapp was about to ask Steven, one of Kennedy’s personal assistants, what was going on when the young man pointed toward the office door and gave Rapp the signal to go in. Rapp banged his fist on it a few times and then entered.

The corner suite ran from right to left, with a sitting area straight ahead, then the director’s desk, and beyond that a large conference table. To the right were the director’s private bathroom and the door to the deputy director’s office. Instead of the six to eight people Rapp expected, there were only two—his boss and a man he had never met but knew by reputation. He was handsome as hell. Short-cropped hair that was equal parts black and white and walnut-colored skin that didn’t have a blemish or wrinkle.

Rapp had never much cared for the seventh floor at Langley. In fact he couldn’t think of a single time where he had looked forward to making the trip up to the rarified top floor of the Old Headquarters Building. It wasn’t that he disliked the people. Irene Kennedy was like family, and her predecessor, Thomas Stansfield, was one of the finest men he’d ever known. The clandestine guys were all good and the intel people were sharp as hell, but this floor more than any other in the business served as a portal to politics, and a whole host of issues that had nothing to do with running an effective intelligence agency.

The man sitting in Kennedy’s office was proof of that. Gabriel Dickerson placed his coffee cup on the saucer that was sitting on the glass table and stood. He extended his right hand and with a warm smile said, “Young man, it is an honor to finally meet you.”

Rapp could not match the sentiment, so he simply nodded. His first impression was that Dickerson was taller than he would have thought, especially since he had to be close to eighty. Rapp was six feet tall and Dickerson was every bit that plus a couple of inches. The second thing Rapp noticed wasn’t the least bit surprising. Dickerson had a smile and charisma that could charm the lollypop out of the sticky mitts of a five-year-old. Whether he’d been born with all this charisma or had learned it on a used-car lot, Rapp didn’t know and didn’t really care, but he knew he’d better damn well be careful, because Gabe Dickerson was to politics what Rapp was to the intelligence business. Their tools were different, of course, but they were both experts at getting things done behind the scenes. While Rapp dealt with problems in an often unpleasant and violent way, Dickerson was known to be every bit as ruthless. The big difference was that while Rapp used his fists and a gun, Dickerson used his Rolodex and a small cadre of litigators, publicists, and political operatives to destroy his enemies or curry favor for his clients.

“Where is Mr. Nash?” Dickerson asked.

“He couldn’t make it,” Rapp said as he glanced at Kennedy, who was still sitting on the couch.

“That’s a shame,” Dickerson continued in his deep basso voice, “I was very much looking forward to meeting both of you. I heard about what you did last week and wanted to thank you personally.”

Rapp’s right eyebrow shot up a notch. “Last week?”

“The attack on the Counterterrorism Center. I heard if it weren’t for the quick thinking and heroics of you and Mr. Nash, things would have been significantly worse.”

It’s already starting, Rapp thought to himself. No one in this damn town can keep a secret. “Don’t believe everything you hear, sir. You know how rumors get rolling around here . . . take a little truth, exaggerate it to suit your needs, and then spin the hell out of it.”

Dickerson let loose a deep, infectious laugh. “You have it all figured out. You could work for me.”

Before Rapp knew it he was smiling and he thought to himself, Damn, this guy is good.

“You’re a brave man, Mr. Rapp . . . charging a group of men like that.” Dickerson shook his head in semidisbelief, “I don’t think too many men could have pulled that off.”

“Like I said, you can’t believe everything you hear in this town.” Rapp’s desire to keep his name out of the press was paramount, and a guy like Dickerson got a great deal of his power and influence by whispering juicy secrets in people’s ears.

“I didn?

??t hear anything,” Dickerson said in defense. “I read it in the FBI’s official report. Six terrorists entered the Operations Center in a single-file line and began systematically executing personnel. Mr. Nash engaged the terrorists from a balcony that overlooks the Ops Center, striking the first man in the line once in the helmet and three more times in the side . . . all .40 caliber rounds. You then proceeded to charge the line of men while Mr. Nash kept the first man distracted. You shot the second man in the throat, the third man in the nose, the fourth man twice in the neck, the fifth man once in the face, and then the last man twice in the small of his back . . . all with a 9mm Glock.

“Then you discovered they were all wearing suicide vests and you had the presence of mind not to flee.” Dickerson shook his head in a manner that said this was the part that most impressed him. “You and Mr. Nash, with the aid of several agents, then proceeded to throw all six terrorists out a window, where they landed at the base of the concrete ramp that led to the underground parking structure. Each vest then exploded and caused severe damage to the parking garage, but not another person was lost.”

It had all gone down pretty fast, but from what Rapp could recall, the man had pretty much nailed the high points.

Dickerson continued, “Now, there’s a fair number of people who would consider what you did to be either stupid or crazy, but I see things a little differently. You see, Mr. Rapp, much of my job depends on sizing people up. Not all that different from a good tailor who has the ability to look at a man from across the room and know exactly what jacket size the man wears. Although I’m not worried about jacket size.” Dickerson tapped his temple with one of his long, manicured fingers and then patted his chest. “I’m worried about what’s up here and what’s in a man’s heart. I can usually size up a prospective client in thirty seconds.” Dickerson looked Rapp over from head to toe and said, “There was nothing stupid or crazy about what you did last week. You are at your best when things are most chaotic. While others panic and react without thought, things slow down for you. You tune out all the noise . . . your brain begins looking for avenues of action first and avenues of retreat second. You size up an enemy the way a lumberjack surveys a tree and then you move efficiently and effectively.” Dickerson shook his head. “Nothing crazy or stupid about it.”


RAPP didn’t like any of this. Didn’t like the fact that the damn FBI had to put everything in writing, or triplicate or whatever in hell it was that they did now with all the damn forms they had to fill out. It was one of his big bitches about this war on terror—too many lawyers created too many cover-your-ass bureaucrats who in turn demanded that everything be put in writing. Assuming it took a few days to put the report together, it couldn’t have been in circulation for more than three or four days, yet here was a private citizen who had already read it. Rapp was pissed, not because of Dickerson really, but because he had failed to have the damn report sanitized, or at least have his role in the affair minimized to a footnote and have someone else given the credit. Things were happening too fast, and he was making mistakes.

Everyone took a seat and then Dickerson said, “You don’t look too pleased.”