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League of Terror
By Bill Granger
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $7.99 $9.99 CAD
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The armistice has been all but signed. The Cold War is over. The world has no further use for spies. Or so it would seem.
Fortunately, Devereaux–the spy they call November–knows better. Even now, he finds himself and his implacable nemesis locked in a deadly battle. The backdrop is the secret war of terrorism waged by an insidious mastermind combining the bloodiest back-alley tactics of Irish republicanism with the sleek financial machinations of Wall Street. The stakes are deeply personal, for an assassin has struck at Rita Macklin, the journalist who loves the November Man. Now Devereaux has but a single goal: kill Henry McGee, before he can strike again.
Table of Contents
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The long Iran-Iraq war produced many evil side effects, not the least of which was reintroduction of nerve gas as a routine weapon in battle. Long after intelligence agencies determined Iraq was "equalizing" the war by using nerve gas against its numerically superior foe, gas continued to be dispatched in battle. Arab sympathizers with Iraq—faced with a similar problem of numerical inferiority in future wars—became intensely interested in acquiring the means of producing nerve gas. After the war, Libya—using West German technology and assistance—assembled a production facility to produce mustard gas. It was partially destroyed by sabotage in March 1990. Though use of lethal gas in warfare is proscribed by the Geneva conventions and subsequent protocols, both the United States and the Soviet Union continue to manufacture and stockpile nerve gas whose only use can be as weapons of war. There is evidence that nerve gas was used by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Terrorism for profit is not a new idea—witness the success of extortion by the Black Hand societies and the Sicilian Mafia in the early part of the century. But a new, nonideological terrorism—using new weapons—has risen, threatening the machinery of business, not the specific harm of individuals.
This book reflects these realities.
CAST OF MAJOR CHARACTERS
Devereaux—code-named "November" is the cold, primed-to-kill agent of R Section.
Rita Macklin—a tough, sexy journalist whose only flaw is that she loves the November Man.
Hanley—director of operations for R Section, a bureaucrat to his fingertips and an employer who can't be trusted.
Lydia Neumann—head of R Section who knows too many secrets to not feel the burden of them.
Mac—Rita's boss, a newsmagazine editor who feels his career—and life—are ending too soon.
Henry McGee—self-described as "the worst man in the world," he is a terrorist-for-profit.
"Marie Dreiser"—a Berlin waif and survivor who is used by McGee—and uses him in return. "Marie" may not be her name at all.
Maureen Kilkenny—a fiery red-haired IRA revolutionary who kills better than any man.
Matthew O'Day—the IRA cell leader who is targeted for terror himself.
Dr. Krueger—a neurologist who uses narcotics to enslave Rita Macklin.
Trevor Armstrong—vain, ruthless boss of Euro-American Airlines who has hocked his soul and now faces the bill for terror.
Dwyer—Armstrong's right-hand man who knows how to use a "horse-killer."
Juno—a man who sells death in a used vodka bottle.
Rita Macklin buttoned her blouse and then tucked it into her skirt. She looked for a critical moment at herself in the mirror of the dressing closet off the bathroom. The blouse was green satin and it complemented her green eyes. She wore her red hair long, as always, and her bangs swept her pale forehead. The bridge of freckles was lesser now because it was fall and she did not have as much time to spend outdoors. She ran every other day but that was early in the morning, before the sun had any power.
She put on a pale lipstick and pressed her lips and regarded the effect of the makeup.
She had not seen Devereaux for a year.
She had called him at the Section more than once and they assured her they had patched her calls through to his apartment. They couldn't say where until the night she guessed New York and an inexperienced dispatcher confirmed it. But that was all—how did you find a hidden man in the labyrinth of the city? She had even asked once—"Where in New York?" But they would not tell her because the apartment was a safe house and, therefore, was secret. Everything was secret, even his existence. She was outside the shell and could not penetrate it.
She thought about him most in the mornings, like now, when she dressed in the apartment off Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda.
Her apartment complex was scarcely a mile from Bethesda Naval Hospital, and the area had been built up chaotically in the past ten years, from the time she had first come to Washington as a reporter. That depressed her, to think of how much change she had witnessed in her surroundings in what she still considered a short life here. Most of the time, she felt she was still new in the capital; and the rare times she admitted her age to herself, she got a little drunk with friends.
She was thirty-six years old. Her eyes, however bright, told her that. She had welcomed the current fashion to wear eye makeup during the day though she would not have done so if she had been younger. Even before she had known Devereaux.
She paused in the act of dressing and thought of him. The thought was dangerous at a vulnerable time like this, the first thing in the morning. It might stay with her all day.
Devereaux would have stood in the dressing foyer and watched her. He wouldn't have said anything but he would have smiled at her if she caught him watching her. The smile would have been shy, the merest trace reflecting the pleasure she gave him. It was such a simple ritual they had shared, like all their rituals.
She would have felt comfortable, as though he were complimenting her or making an act of love. He really had loved her and never said it to her. That too was part of the ritual, because words were used for lies in Devereaux's canon, and what was true must be silent. He had really loved her in all those silences they shared.
At least she thought that when she remembered him.
They had parted reluctantly more than a year ago because she really had to make him understand she couldn't tolerate life as—she wasn't even his wife, just his lover—as the lover of a case officer. Case officer. What a mundane term to describe what he really was, an intelligence agent with R Section. Not a clerk deciphering codes in a safe bureaucracy but an agent in the field, one of the tacks on a map of the world that signified operations both legal and black.
He had all the secrets dangerously stored inside him. The secrets made him a silent watcher, even if he was merely watching her dress in the little closet of her apartment. When you have secrets, even those that are dead and buried deep in memory's backyard, you cannot speak because each word must be a lie or the secrets are revealed. Lies become habit. She couldn't tolerate his life because the secrets he carried around in him put him apart from her all the time and because she knew he put himself in harm's way too often. She loved him too much to lose him; so, she had left him.
She folded her arms and hugged herself to stop from thinking about the way he had held her—sometimes in the morning like this, held her a moment before she had to leave—as though he wanted an impression of her to carry around with him during the time they were apart.
He had risen behind her on those mornings and had come to her at the mirror and placed his arms over her, to squeeze her waist, to touch her breasts, to nuzzle her neck so that he could smell her perfume as he tasted her.
Rita had been very sure about leaving Devereaux at the time. The doubts came a moment later. She held them off for a while, for a long while, and then she could not end her addiction to him at all. She had to call him, wherever he was. She had to at least hear the sound of his voice again, a potent placebo against the doubts and melancholy of life apart from him.
He never answered her calls.
There was only a single number and she knew it was one of the twenty-four-hour answering rooms kept by R Section. She said his name and told them her code name. Her code name—though she wasn't part of Section at all, she had a code name, as he did. They would patch her through to wherever he was in time—they wouldn't tell her where he was.
There was a phone recording machine hooked up in a safe house in New York and it wasn't even his voice but a computer-generated one: "Leave a message at the tone." And then a tone, and she would tell the emptiness: "Call me."
He had not called her.
He had not come back to her. She felt relieved sometimes at that because it wasn't any good between them, not in the long run. Not as long as he was the reluctant spy for R Section, kept in harness because they needed him and they knew how to control him. He had tried once to break free with her and it had nearly cost both of them their lives. In the real world, you're on one side or the other; those are the rules.
She said those things to console herself because it was truly broken between them. He would not call her.
"Call me," she would say in the darkest moment to the sound of a beep on a recording machine. She wouldn't say more than that.
It should have been enough for him.
She stepped out into the bright October light. The sunlight was fragmented against the golden maples behind the apartment complex. It was dazzlingly beautiful in that moment.
Rita Macklin stepped onto the new gravel on the lot, stopped, smiled at the sky and trees. The bad thoughts about Devereaux had left her; she would be all right for the rest of the day. Now she was herself, an attractive woman with merry eyes and an eager manner that pleased all men and not a few women. She could not be given to melancholy on a perfect autumn morning.
She fumbled for her car keys in her purse and pulled them out. The car was a five-year-old Ford Escort, a minimal sort of car that fitted her life and style. She hadn't wanted a car at all but her bosses insisted she have one. There are stories outside the District, Mac would say; you have to fly out of Dulles, another would say, and it would be more economical. Inside the District, she still used the clean, swift Metro underground and the poke-along buses. Sometimes she would just walk all the way home, up Massachusetts to Wisconsin Avenue and out to the Old Georgetown Road, marveling at all that was new in the city, comforted by all the things that had not changed. But today she had to go to Dulles, so she would use the car.
She had her keys in hand as she reached the car. In the next moment, she was on the ground.
She had fallen, she thought.
She felt a dull sickness in her stomach and wondered if she had broken the heel of her right shoe. The shoes cost $125, which was obscene, but she had loved them when she saw them in the store on L Street.
She thought her skirt would be soiled by the gravel and dirt in the parking lot. A stupid fall and she had ruined her clothes and would have to change and miss the next flight… The thoughts came jumbled and fast as she lay on the gravel and tried to decide why she felt sick. She tried to turn on her hip and push herself up but her right arm didn't work. She thought she had sprained it in falling. And why had she fallen?
Then she felt the pain from her belly up across the right side of her chest to her shoulder and from her shoulder down to her right elbow. The pain was centered in her right side but she couldn't understand why she wanted to retch.
Instead, Rita moaned. And blood filled her mouth and her nose, although she did not know this yet.
She blinked to be able to see better. She saw a man coming between the rows of parked cars. The sun was behind him and he was merely a shadow until he came near. He carried a briefcase. She noticed the initials on the briefcase and thought it was pretentious to have initials on your case. She wouldn't have thought of doing that. She counted herself a simple person. She wouldn't have owned a car but she had to go to Dulles, where the plane would have left already—
Oh my God, she thought, I'm going to scream in a moment.
It was the lawyer who lived in the apartment at the other end of the hall. Tom. Tom something, they had met at a party of a mutual friend in the same apartment building. He had wanted to put the hit on her but he really wasn't her type at all. Now she was lying here, embarrassing herself, embarrassing him. What an awful way to start a—
She moaned again and saw that frightened look in his eyes, as though he were looking at something quite horrible. His look frightened her more than being on the ground.
"Please," she said.
"My God, Rita, your blouse, your face—"
She wasn't seeing him very well.
What about her blouse?
"You're bleeding, you've been shot," Tom said. "My God, Rita, I'll call emergency… I heard the shot."
What about her blouse? There was nothing wrong with her blouse. She looked down at her blouse and saw that the green satin was wet on the right side and that the green had turned a much darker color. What about her blouse?
He was leaving her and the world spun around so that the rows of cars narrowed around her. Were they going to crush her? What did she care? She didn't want to close her eyes because she thought she might fall asleep right there, between the parked cars in the parking lot. That would make her look foolish. Tom what's-his-name certainly shouldn't have left her to look foolish. Was she drunk? She had gone running five miles this morning, all the way out to the Beltway and back, and she had eaten an English muffin, lite cream cheese, and a tomato slice for breakfast…
She closed her eyes despite herself.
Devereaux picked up the telephone in the living room of the three-room safe "house" on West Fifty-eighth Street in Manhattan.
He was just over six feet tall, with graying hair and absolutely pewter eyes. For a moment, he only listened to the complex whine of the scrambler becoming activated.
"November," Hanley said.
"Control," Devereaux responded.
"There's been… a rather bad thing," Hanley said. His voice was so unusually delicate, almost hesitant. It was the voice of someone trying to be a friend while conveying both sympathy and bad news.
What a peculiar tone of voice. Hanley was only control and not his friend by any means.
"Rita Macklin was shot this morning in the parking lot of her apartment building," Hanley said. "We were only notified a little while ago, through the editor of that magazine she worked for. She had left her building at the usual time, according to him; she was catching a flight to Phoenix."
Devereaux waited. If he spoke now, he would betray himself to Hanley. He thought of the voice on the answering machine and how he had been tempted to call her and catch the shuttle back to her. But he had not because it would have been no good again. They had loved each other too much to put up with hurts and disappointments in his work for Section. He understood how much he hurt her, and there was no way not to go on hurting her. So he had cut it off, finally, even if she could not. He always dreaded returning to this apartment, dreaded the blinking red light on the answering machine that meant someone had called. Would it be her voice? "Call me." But he loved her too much to do that.
"Goddamn you, Hanley, is she dead?"
"She's in surgery. She lost a lot of blood before they got to her. She was in shock at the scene; her eyes were rolling back above her lids." He paused; the graphic description chilled both of them. There was a long silence before Devereaux spoke.
"Who shot her?"
"An assassin," Hanley said. "Shot from a grove of maples behind her apartment house. She wasn't robbed, she was set up to be shot."
"Who shot her?" Devereaux said.
"The police say they don't have any clues, that—"
"Screw the police. Screw the goddamn police." Just this close to losing control. They both understood it. More silence, more waiting. The telephone line buzzed faintly. Devereaux pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "I want to know who shot her."
"Devereaux," Hanley said. "I don't know. We're working on it through liaisons. With the Bureau. We're doing what we can—"
"Where is she?"
"Saint Margaret's Hospital. We made certain she had the best. Has. The doctor has a good reputation, but she was in shock and the loss of blood… Also a concussion when she fell. After she was hit. That concerned him greatly for a time. They took X rays, a C-scan, EEG…" The medical terms were supposed to soothe; they did not. "Everything is being done…"
Devereaux again made a silence by not propping up the dying words of Hanley's monologue. He looked out the single living room window at the hurly-burly below. Eighth Avenue was in full early-evening swing. The streets were crowded with commuters and idlers, ladies of the evening and boys of the night, theatergoers and tired young women walking home from work in limp gray suits and tennis shoes. The city had worked desperately hard all day and now it would play desperately hard all night. There was no respite from the sense of desperation, even in the nightmares of sleep.
Devereaux saw Rita as she was the first time, on that beach in Florida a long time ago when he only meant to use her and not to love her. Call me. He could have picked up the phone yesterday or the day before or a year before.
"What was she working on?" He tried a calm tone in the face of the nightmare. A fire engine wailed beyond his windows, one more scream in the night.
"A piece about the renaissance in city life in Pittsburgh. Also this story in Phoenix, about the crime syndicate. It was about the reporter who was killed there years ago. Don Bolles, blown up in his car," Hanley said. "Her editor, MacCormick, he told me that. He didn't seem surprised that I had called him. I told him I was with the Bureau but I knew he didn't believe me. He knew about you, about her… relationship to you."
"That was past," Devereaux said.
"But he knew I wasn't FBI," Hanley said.
"What else was she working on?"
"Nothing of importance, nothing to get shot over. It was the anniversary of his death, this Bolles fellow, it was a retrospective and a look at the city today. I don't really understand journalists but he told me it was routine."
"Is he sure? Who has her notes on the Outfit?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Devereaux closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"The crime syndicate in Phoenix. Did he have her notes?"
"I notified the Bureau, I told you. They're looking into it."
"Yes. You told me."
"Are you coming to Washington?"
"Yes," Devereaux said.
"We can send a man to the airport to meet you. Drive you to the hospital. You can have a car at your disposal."
"Yes." He said it in a dull voice, keeping the conversation from flickering into silence now because he was suddenly afraid of silence, afraid he would hear her voice.
The apartment was dark. He had been sitting in the dark, drinking vodka, listening to the roar of the city outside his windows. He had not thought about Rita Macklin for days and he had wondered if he would eventually reach the point when he would not think about her at all. Memory can be contained and all old wounds turned to healed scars by new experience. It wasn't the passage of time at all that did it but burying the past under each new, unrelated experience. Now she was back in all his thoughts, she was all old wounds torn open again.
"There's been a lot of this. Murder. In the capital. The police think it was unrelated to her, perhaps—"
"Don't tell me that. Not in Bethesda, not in the morning. That's bullshit, Hanley."
"You're upset. You have every reason to be. I called you as soon as I was told…"
Hanley's voice craved sympathy. He wanted Devereaux to be glad that he had acted so humanely. He wanted Devereaux's forgiveness for whatever it was he had ever done.
Devereaux replaced the receiver.
He walked into the bedroom and turned on the small brass lamp at the side of his bed. He rarely slept in the bed but on the couch, under a single prickly wool blanket, generally falling asleep while he read a book. The apartment was littered with books. They were stacked on the floor everywhere because the safe house had no bookshelves, although it contained two television sets. The books made some mark of his on the place. And he kept vodka in the refrigerator, neat rows of bottles of vodka so that he would never be without it.
He placed the 9-millimeter Beretta in the bag with a few bits of clothing. And the blue passport. And the British passport, too, in case he would have to become someone else. He slipped the money pouch—Velcro close, waterproof—inside his waistband.
He zipped the canvas bag and turned toward the door. The front entry had four locks. He opened the door, stepped into the tiled hall, and closed the door. He relocked all four locks, sending the dead bolts home four times, four thuds of metal against metal in the silent chamber of the hall. The door was solid steel and so was the framing around the door.
He walked to the elevator cage and pressed the button. The machinery pulled the elevator slowly to the sixth level.
"Call me," she had said on the message tape. He had wanted to purge her from his life.
The doors opened and he stepped inside the cage.
He wanted tears in that moment but none came. He listened to her voice over and over as the cage descended.
Devereaux sat in the lounge on the second floor. The hospital was full of night sounds, groans from the darkened halls and television sets. All the fear of sickness and death in a hospital is concentrated in the night corridors and is endured through the narcotics of conversation and banal TV entertainment, punctuated by groans.
He was alone. He didn't need the driver or the car. Or goddamned Section and the goddamned sympathy of someone like Hanley. Section had tied him to remain an agent—to abandon Rita—because they knew all the secret things that Devereaux had done. They had Devereaux tied forever to them because they needed him. Goddamned Section. For one moment a long time ago, he had traded his soul for something Section knew he wanted to have. Thought he needed—until he met Rita Macklin.
Section. He felt hate and he didn't know if it was for himself or Section, but Section was sitting out there and he could kick at it, maybe bring it down, shoot to kill…
She was dying. He felt it. Dying was pure cold, pure white.
He looked at the surgeon and was shocked to see how young he was. Or was it merely that Devereaux was growing old?
"Your friend is out of surgery now," the surgeon said. He had changed his smock because of the blood on it. For a surgeon, he had learned sensitivity somewhere.
Devereaux waited. He almost never asked questions because the silence makes a better questioner.
"She's in guarded condition." He waited for a question but none came.
Devereaux sat, staring at him, not with curiosity or hostility or any emotion on his face.
"There was a lot of damage. She's lost part of her right lung. That's what took so long. There was no way to save all of it. When the bullet entered, it exploded. Fortunately for her life, the bullet was not dead-on. It entered below her right breast but exited sharply up, through her shoulder. The shoulder muscles were damaged; I don't know how great the neurological damage is. While she was under, I tried to get a grasping response from her right hand but she couldn't manage it. But this can be temporary. I mean, the partial paralysis."
He was telling Devereaux everything, as calmly as possible. Devereaux's silence demanded everything.
"The point is, she has a healthy heart, she has good circulation, she was undoubtedly athletic. These are the pluses. The lung. Well, you can live with one lung, let alone only losing part of one… but the trauma of losing it this way and the loss of blood before surgery count against. I'm trying to be as honest as I can."
Devereaux knew dying was cold, was white. It was still there and he could sense it. "Is she going to die?"
"I don't know. I hope not."
Devereaux got up. He saw the surgeon was shorter than he was and that his eyes were very tired. "Is there anything anyone can do?"
"She's being monitored, I'm on call… there's nothing to do now."
"Can I see her?"
"There's… look, Mr. Devereaux. Her head is bandaged. From the concussion. There's a lot of healing going on right now, tubes, a sling. I really wish you wouldn't."
Devereaux saw her anyway, from the door of the bright-lit room where she lay. Her eyes were closed and her beautiful red hair was capped by a crown of bandages. He saw the machines that measured the course of her life and the green lines that noted she had advanced another heartbeat.
"Oh, goddamn it," Devereaux said. He let the door close without a sound.
Room 803 of the Dupont Plaza Hotel was small and marginally clean. The window overlooked the neighborhood around the Circle. It was just after one in the morning. The city looked seedy and dark at night because of the overgrowth of southern trees on small northern lots and the dangerous shadows of street lamps obscured by the trees. The usual derelicts occupied the park in the middle of Dupont Circle.
It was just after one in the morning and they had given him a bottle of vodka at the liquor store on Wisconsin in Bethesda. In the empty lobby of the hotel, he had dropped a ten-dollar bill on the counter to order a bucket of ice and a large glass brought to his room. The clerk explained that the bar was closed and there was an ice machine on each floor and that the plastic glasses in the room would have to suffice. Even money could not buy service.
- On Sale
- Jan 13, 2015
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Grand Central Publishing