Chapter 3

 

Jack Kolda

George Washington Memorial Parkway

Langley, Virginia

 

At least we could say we had a shortlist, at the President’s press conference, but it doesn’t get us any closer. Ayda never came through and I can’t pry the list out of NSA until I get back to Langley.

The piercing Bluetooth ring interrupts the country music on the car radio and I thumb the answer button.

“You know anybody with the cryptonym SILVER at North Ridge Consulting?” asks Ayda.

No, not at North Ridge Consulting. Ten years after Ankara, almost thirty years after Beirut, but I remember Silver. That’s a linguistic in-joke, not a cryptonym.

“Can’t recall.”

“Says her name is Farah. This is a verification call; I wanted to make sure someone got the IMSI list—”

“Give it to her.” Silver was with Hart and I for the Iranian Hostage Crisis when we saved eighty-eight civilians after the embassy takeover, and she was with us for the Beirut Hostage Crisis when we tried and failed to save Chief of Station Buckley. She would fight for Hart, no question.

“I don’t have access; I need to talk to you.”

What is Fort Meade doing? “Come up to my office.”

“They revoked my clearance.”

Damn. Damn. Damn. “Why?”

She hesitates, deciding what she can say and keep my trust, which she never had. “Chief counsel says it’s nothing.”

“Mark Laurent is a professional liar. Who’s conducting the investigation?”

“The House Intelligence Committee, I think.”

Not Internal Affairs. Not counterintelligence. Though if she were a real double agent I think I’d have a fair shot. I’m not a bad case officer.

“Where are you now?” I ask.

“Headed for Langley. Still kind of far.”

“Get off in McLean, go to Fort Marcy Park. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll call you back. Know anyone who still has access?”

“Brooke Kinman,” she says. “Don’t repeat that; I’m apparently all kinds of toxic.”

“I won’t.”

Back in Langley with a secure line, I call Fort Meade. Pressure Brooke Kinman until she’ll do me a favor. She’s too young for the hostage negotiation to mean anything, for her it’s all about getting in good with the lead Vienna negotiator. She gives me the IMSI list and she’s mine for good, compromised. Mishandling of classified data.

I call North Ridge on the central line, not the extension. “Jasper at Global Investments for Farah, call back.” Washington picked up this cursory verification habit after the Masked Avenger radio show fiasco. We’re too well-known, or at least I am, and North Ridge is a popular target at the moment for pranksters and hacktivists.

For an interminable minute it doesn’t ring, and then another, and I wonder if the whole thing is that kind of sick joke.

The phone rings.

“Hey COBALT.” She lays the Midwestern accent on thick. She sounds American.

It takes me a second to find a voice. “Hey Silver.” Her last name was Lujayn—Silver—when I knew her as a middle man in the Beirut hostage crisis. What used to be my cryptonym back then has long been declassified, and she started using it in the rare unofficial drops at CIA stations we both passed through.

“You got a list for me?” she asks.

I take her instructions, send her the list. “You moved to the States.” She left the Mossad.

I can hear the smile in her voice. “When are you going to join me in the afterlife?”

“Seven months. Halliwell.” An oil giant with its own intelligence consulting firm and private military contractor. It feels like working for another national service.

“Are you sure? They’re still starstruck with the blue passport; I can request hires with impunity.”

I’d do anything for her but work for her. “I’m going to tell your director you said that. Why didn’t you call before?” How long has she been here?

“I did. They gave me the ‘no officer by that name’ treatment, and I wasn’t about to position myself as a defector just to talk to you. Thank your girl at the other agency.”

“This year’s scapegoat, you mean. I’m meeting with her in a minute. Call me back about the mobile identifiers?” I don’t want to hang up, but I don’t know how to talk to her while another Beirut Station survivor is captive in Ankara.

“I’ll see what I can find and meet you in Langley. We’ll find him, Jasper.”

We’re already trying to handle each other.