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“Don’t tell me he was too hung over to see the president.”

It sounded like as good a story as any, so Rapp gave it the nondenial denial and shrugged his shoulders.

Kennedy shook her head in disappointment. “Do I even want to know what goes on down there?”

Rapp thought of Adams and said, “Probably not.”

“How bad can it be?”

Rapp was tempted to tell her it involved hookers and a bunch of drugs, but he didn’t want to push her over the edge. “Some cards, some drinking, some harmless talk. That’s all it ever is.”

Kennedy gave him her schoolmarm frown.

“Hey . . . this isn’t exactly the easiest job in the world,” Rapp said defensively. “There’s nothing wrong with blowing off a little steam.”

“I agree. Just make sure that’s all it is.” She maneuvered her mouse and opened up her email. “Speaking of PR . . . the last thing we need right now is some TV news crew to catch you guys doing God only knows what you do down there.”

Rapp found the idea preposterous. Hurley had more damn security than some federal buildings. If any reporters were dumb enough to ignore all the signs and wander onto the property they would end up running for their lives from Hurley’s pack of dogs. “The last person you need to worry about is Stan Hurley. He’s smarter than all of us and he’s been doing this for a hell of a lot longer.” Rapp thought of the inevitable confrontation between Hurley and Nash. If Nash didn’t snap back 100 percent, and do it quickly, Hurley would want him gone. Not killed necessarily, but he would want him transferred out of the clandestine service and probably out of the CIA entirely. Rapp looked a few days into the future and saw a way that he might be able to defuse the conflict. “Speaking of PR . . . maybe Gabe’s idea wasn’t so bad after all.”

Kennedy looked surprised. “Really?”

“Not for me,” Rapp added quickly. “I’m thinking of Mike.”

Kennedy thought about it for a second. “Why Mike?”

“He’s perfect. Former Marine officer, gorgeous wife, four cute kids. Dickerson could do wonders with something like that.”

Kennedy’s hazel eyes narrowed. “What are you up to?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean. Fifteen minutes ago you thought it was the craziest thing you’d ever heard, and now all of the sudden you’re offering up Mike.”

“You’re always telling me I need to be more open-minded . . . that’s all this is.”

Kennedy studied him for a long moment. She wasn’t buying it. “You’re up to something. I know it.”


RAPP was thinking on the fly. He wasn’t about to explain to Kennedy that Nash had come unhinged in the last twelve hours. She was too perceptive, and she would want to know what the catalyst had been. She would also assume it was something that had taken place at Hurley’s lake house and she would be right. Rapp could fabricate a hell of a lie that would stand up to a lot of digging, but there was one weak point. Sometime in the next three days she would have Nash standing in front of her desk just as he was now. She would begin to probe, and if Nash was still in his volatile state and mad at Rapp, he was likely to say a few things that would cause a lot of trouble. Rapp would have to get to him in the meantime and prepare him, but for now, he had to give Kennedy a plausible reason for his newfound respect for Dickerson’s plan.

There wasn’t a cover story worth a damn that wasn’t somehow grounded in truth, and Kennedy knew him too well, as was evidenced by her suspicion. Rapp started speaking and before he knew it, the answer was on his lips. “I think Mike is having a hard time with what happened last week.”

“So your answer is to thrust him into the spotlight and end his career as a clandestine operative.”

Rapp shrugged and tried to play down the obvious. “It wouldn’t be ended. There’s still plenty of work for him to do around here. He just wouldn’t be involved in some of the more risky operations.” Rapp watched her eyes burrow through him as if she were trying to read his soul.

“Something happened last night,” Kennedy said.

This time it was a statement, as if she knew for certain something had gone on. Rapp sighed and said, “He’s burnt out, Irene. This shit has really gotten to him. I’m not sure he ever fully recovered from the injuries he suffered over in the Kush.” Rapp w

as referring to an operation they had run in Afghanistan nearly a year ago. The intel had been solid. A high-value target was staying in a village on the border. They had gone in with a Special Forces team right at dawn. Everything was looking good and then the house they were about to raid blew up, killing two troopers and nearly killing Nash. “The docs are still picking shrapnel from him, and his wife tells me he wakes up every morning with an ear-splitting headache. Then last week he sees his secretary and a bunch of his coworkers gunned down by some gun-toting jihadists. Considering what he’s been through, it’s a wonder he can get out of bed in the morning and face the world.”

“And you?” Kennedy asked with a bit of amusement in her voice.

“What about me?”

“It could be argued that you’ve suffered through the same events.”

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