Private Sector


By Brian Haig

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The bestselling author of Secret Sanction returns — and this time, Army lawyer Sean Drummond is loaned out to a law firm whose #1 client may have ties to a vicious serial killer and a massive international crime ring.

Wherever Sean Drummond goes, it seems that the JAG officer leaves a trail of political fallout in his wake. So when his superiors get an opportunity to loan him to a prestigious law firm, they jump on it, hoping he’ll soak up the nuances of civilian lawyering. But almost immediately, dark clouds appear when Sean’s predecessor in the loan-out program is murdered. Then Sean begins to sense something amiss with the firm’s biggest client, a telecom behemoth with large defense contracts. Now, he must survive in D.C.’s buttoned-down lawyer culture long enough to stop the killer, and long enough to discover why his firm and its top client are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.


Also by Brian Haig

Secret Sanction

Mortal Allies

The Kingmaker

To Lisa
Brian, Pat, Donnie, and Annie


Books are the products of many hands and talents. For example, Alexander Haig, my brother, a crackerjack lawyer who gave me expert advice on law firms, telecommunications, and many lessons in sibling rivalries.

Or my agent and good friend, Luke Janklow, who handles everything with extraordinary grace, integrity, and humor.

Or my editor and also friend, Rick Horgan, a man with a remarkable eye, a brilliant mind, and patience.

Or Mari Okuda and Roland Ottewell, copy editors, but more than that, friends—and nearly coauthors, in my case.

I owe them all, and the rest of the remarkable crews at Janklow, Nesbitt, and Warner Books, a huge debt.



She appeared not to have heard me.

"Excuse me, Miss. Major Sean Drummond . . . the phone, you called, right?"

She replied, sounding annoyed, "Yes. I was ordered to."

"You're angry."

"I'm not. You're not worth getting mad about."

"I honestly meant to call you."

"I'm glad you didn't."


"Yes. I was tired of you anyway."

She stared into her computer screen. And indeed, she was mad. It occurred to me that dating the boss's secretary might not have been a good idea. But she was quite good-looking, as I mentioned, with smoldering dark eyes, bewitching lips, and, I recalled, beneath that desk, a pair of splendid legs. Actually, why hadn't I called her?

I leaned across her desk. "Linda, I had a wonderful time."

"Of course you did. I didn't."

"I'm truly sorry it didn't work out."

"Good. I'm not."

I searched my mind for an appropriate sentiment and finally said, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

"What?" She finally looked up.

"The Great Gatsby . . . the final line."

"Fuck off—that's Jackie Collins, if you're interested." She added, icily, "And take your hands off my desk. I just polished it."

Goodness. Now I recalled why I never called her after that first date. Actually, I never called her before the first date—she called me. But I learned long ago that what matters is not who starts it but who ends it.

I straightened up and asked, "So, why does the old man want to see me?"

"Ask him."

"I'd rather ask you."

"All right. Ask more nicely."

"Fine. Please, Linda . . . why am I here?"

"I'm not at liberty to tell you." She smiled.

Well, what more was there to say? She was being petty and unreasonable.

I backed away, far enough that she couldn't staple my hand to my crotch or something. That smile, however, bothered me. "Absit omen," I mumbled—May it not be an omen.

I suspected it was, however. So I spent a moment thinking about that. It occurred to me that nearly two months had passed since my last session with the boss. These are never pleasant meetings. In fact, they are never intended to be. The boss and I have a relationship that might be described as messy, and he has developed this really weird opinion that if he rides my butt hard enough, and often enough, it will fix itself. He calls them preemptive sessions. I call them a waste of time. They have not worked in the past, and we all know that persistent failure is not fertile ground for future success. But he stays at it. This must be what it's like to be married.

"I'll just wait here till he's ready," I informed Linda. It fit, I decided—General Clapper would toast my ears a little, and nosy, vindictive Linda would press her ear to the door and indulge in her vicarious retribution. I'd tune him out, as I always do, and I'd assure him at the end, also as I always do, that he'd made some very constructive points and had seen his last trouble from Sean Drummond.

No big deal. Right?

Wrong—ahead lay murder, scandal, and deeds so odious and foul they would turn my life, and this entire city, upside down. In fact, while I cooled my heels in this office, the murderer was already plotting the first of what would become many kills. And those who would become kills were going about their lives, unaware they were in the crosshairs of a monster.

But I don't think Linda foresaw that. I don't think she even wished it.

Incidentally, I don't work in the Pentagon, where this particular office was, and still is, located. I hang my hat in a small red-brick building inside a military base in Falls Church, Virginia, a tiny place with high fences, lots of guards, no signs, and no confusing room numbers. But if you're into confusing room numbers, Clapper's office is designated 2E535—2 connoting the second floor, E signifying the outer and most prestigious ring, and 535 indicating the same side of the building that got clobbered by Osama's boys. In the old days of the cold war, the courtyard in the middle of the Pentagon was called Ground Zero, the innermost A-Ring was Suicide Alley, and the outermost E-Ring was the place to be. But it's a new world and things change.

"He's ready for you now," announced Linda, again smiling.

I glanced at my watch: 1700 hours, or 5:00 P.M. , the end of the official duty day, a warm early December evening to be precise. I love this season. I mean, between Thanksgiving and Christmas no-body in Washington even pretends they're working. How good is that? In fact, the last case in my in-box had just danced over to my out-box, and it was my turn.

Anyway, I stepped into Clapper's office, and he seemed so delighted to see me he even said, "Sean . . . I'm so delighted to see you." He waved at a pair of plush leather chairs and asked, "Well, my old friend, how are things?"

My old friend? "I'm fine, General. Thank you for asking."

"Well, good. You've been doing great work, and I'm very proud of you." His ass relaxed into a stuffed chair, and it struck me I was getting enough phony sunshine stuffed up my ass to be a health risk. He asked, "That Albioni case, has it been wrapped up yet?"

"Yes. This morning, in fact. We reached a plea agreement."

For some reason, I had the annoying sense he knew this already.

By the way, I'm what the Army calls a Special Actions attorney. If you want to know, I'm actually a defense counsel in a specialized compartment of lawyers and judges. We're specialized because we manage the legal issues of the Army's black operations, a menagerie of people and units so spooky nobody's supposed to know they even exist. It's all smoke and mirrors, and we're part of that circus.

In fact, my office supposedly doesn't exist, and neither do I, which often makes me wonder why in the hell I get out of bed in the morning. Just kidding. I love my job. Really. However, the sensitivity and seriousness of our work means we work directly for the Judge Advocate General, a line on Clapper's organizational chart he bitterly regrets, as we, and particularly me, are a royal pain in his ass.

So, what else? I'm 38 years old, single, have always been single, and the way things were looking, the past was lining up to be a prologue to the future. I regard myself as a fairly decent attorney, a master of the military legal code, clever, resourceful, and all that. My boss might object to any or all of those points, but what does he know? In my business, it's the clients who count, and I rarely get complaints.

But, back to my superficially perfect host. He inquired, "So tell me, Sean, what punishment did Albioni take in exchange for his guilty plea?"

"You know. . . it was fair and just."

"Good. Now describe for me please your idea of fair and just."

"All right. Two years in Leavenworth, honorable discharge, full benefits."

"I see." But he did not look happy.

The subject in question was Sergeant First Class Luigi Albioni, who was part of a unit that collects intelligence on foreign targets and who had been dispatched to Europe with an American Express card to shadow the dictator of a country that must remain anonymous. If you're curious, however, think of a large pisshole slow-baking between Egypt and Tunisia, a place we once bombed after it sent a terrorist to blow up a German disco filled with American GIs, and we still aren't invited to each other's barbecues. Yet it seems the dictator likes to don disguises on occasion and escape the stuffy Muslim ways of his country to partake in the decadent ways of the West, and Luigi's job was to skulk around and obtain photos of the camel-jockey as he shot craps in Monaco and cavorted in Amsterdam's brothels.

Exactly why our national leaders would want such disgusting pictures is, you can be sure, a question I would like answered. But in this business, don't ask. They usually won't answer. If they do, it's all lies.

Anyway, a week after Luigi departed from JFK International, he—and a hundred grand drawn on his charge card—disappeared into thin air, whatever the hell that cliché means. Six months passed before Luigi did something inexplicably stupid: He e-mailed an ex-wife. To inquire if there was a bounty on his ass, she called the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, who notified us; who swiftly arranged to have that same ass collected from a well-known Swiss resort, which accounts for when and how I came into the picture.

Actually, Luigi turned out to be a pretty good guy for a scum-bag who deserted his country. We bonded a little, and he confided that in order to protect his cover he had tried his hand at black-jack, got seriously carried away, lost ninety grand, then his luck turned and he won nine hundred grand. It was a fingertap from God, Luigi was sure—after seventeen years of loyal and courageous service, the time had come to pack it in on his own terms.

But back to Clapper. He logically asked, "And what happened to the money your client stole from the . . . from our government?"

I pointed out, "You mean the hundred grand he borrowed? He always intended to send a check with compounded interest. The rest were winnings—his winnings."

"Drummond . . . just don't." Well, it had worked with the prosecutor, but that's another story.

"The remainder's being donated to the Old Soldier's Home."

"Is that so?" He raised his eyebrows and suggested, I think skeptically, "A charitable gesture from a guilt-wrought man I take it?"

"In his own words, the least he could do, you know . . . considering his crimes, his love for the Army, and—"

"And the ten-year reduction played no role? None whatsoever?"

Well, he obviously knew more about the case than he had let on. And then he asked, "So what did we get for ten years of his life?"

"Seven hundred grand, give or take change. And be thankful— in the private sector, half that would be sitting in my checking account for services rendered."

"Yes, half would be about right." He chuckled and commented, "But then you wouldn't have the grand satisfaction of serving your country." This was an old joke that never goes down well, and he then added, "Actually, it's ironic you should mention it."

But he did not elaborate on that cryptic thought. Instead he asked, "Please remind me, Sean, how long have you been assigned to the Special Actions unit?"

"Oh, let's see . . . eight years, come next March."

"I think you mean since last September. Right? Four years prosecuting and four defending. Right?"

I nodded. Yes, that would be exactly right.

But regarding me, I believe wholeheartedly in the eleventh commandment: Thou shalt not fixeth that which is not brokeneth. The Army, however, was created to wreck things that aren't broken, a mindset that bleeds over into its personnel policies. Actually, nobody in the Army believes there are personnel policies, just a standing order that as soon as a soldier becomes acclimated to a certain place, masters a certain job, or appears happy where they're at, it's time to jerk their ass through some new knothole.

Professionally, I was very content where I was. Socially, I had serious problems.

But Clapper was explaining, "JAG officers have to be well-rounded. Contracts, negotiations, there's a whole world of law you've never touched."

"Good point. You're right. Let's keep it that way."

"I. . . I understand." He cleared his throat and continued, less tolerantly, "I also understand you're up for promotion this year." I nodded to acknowledge this fact before he added, "So, do I need to remind you that promotion boards tend to choose officers with more general knowledge and experience in the field of law?"

"Who cares?" Actually, I care. I'm as ambitious as the next guy, I just want to succeed on my own terms.

This, however, was neither the appropriate nor desired response. He got up, turned his back on me, and gazed out the window, across the highway at Arlington National Cemetery. He obviously had something up his sleeve, and I had the sense he was about to transfer it up my ass. That aside, you have to ponder the logic that placed the Pentagon and the cemetery next to each other—the living and dead, past and present, lucky and unlucky— right there. The sight of those endless rows of white stones tends not to promote those aspirations and ambitions that beget hard work, long hours, and diligence. But more sensibly, those markers do remind the powers who rule this building of the price of stupid blunders, which perhaps was what the designer intended.

I wondered if Clapper was staring across that road and pondering his mortality. How foolish—he was apparently pondering mine.

He asked, over his shoulder, "Have you ever heard of the WWIP?"

"Sure. I had a friend who caught it once. Very rough. His dick fell off."

He was not amused. "The full title is the Working With Industry Program, Sean. It's where we put an officer in a civilian company for a year. The officer learns what's new and state-of-the-art in the private sector, then brings that knowledge back into the military. It's a highly regarded program for our most promising officers—good for the individual and good for the Army."

"It does sound like a great program. I'll even name ten guys who'd love to do that." I then added, "But my name won't be on that list."

"In fact, yours is the only name on that list." He walked back in my direction and ordered, "Report for duty at Culper, Hutch, and Westin first thing in the morning. It's located here in D. C. , and it's a damned fine firm."

I said nothing.

He said, "Don't give me that look. It'll do you good. You've worked a lot of hard cases, and you'll benefit from the break. Actually, I'm envious."

It's worth noting here that who needed the break was a debatable point. I had handled a few very sensitive cases, most recently one concerning a general officer accused of treason, where I'd stepped on a few very important, oversensitive toes.

Nor, I expect, did I do myself any favors when, in the afteraction report on that same espionage case, I referred to the JAG as a backstabbing ass who'd hung me out to dry. This was not news to him, of course. Still, this might not have been a good idea, I realized.

But concerning Clapper, he is, as I mentioned, the head of all the Army's lawyers, judges, and legal assistants, an attorney by trade, and a superb one in his day. The stars on his shoulders attest to his command of the legal arts and also his political moxie, as raw competence only gets you so many rungs up the pay ladder in this man's Army. He was raised in the South, where military virtues and selflessness were stamped into the young men of his generation from birth. He is tall, poster-boy handsome, and courtly in manner, except when someone irritates him, which, regrettably, I have a habit of doing.

Regarding me, I was raised as an Army brat, a lifestyle that leaves one rootless, with muddled habits and speech patterns and, oddly enough, with less reverence toward the grand institution than generational novices. We view it as a family business, and we tend to be a bit more alert to the Army's flaws and clumsy tendencies, and considerably more circumspect when it comes to entrusting our fates to professional whimsy.

"Please pick someone else," I replied.

"Sean, we all must do what we must do. Into the valley of death rode the six hundred, right?" Right. And none rode back out, he failed to mention.

He leaned back into his chair, possibly considering a new line of attack. After a moment, he suggested, "Captain Lisa Morrow, you and she are acquainted, I think. In fact, you're friends, aren't you?"

Did he really expect me to reply to this question? Understand that Clapper had, only two years before, personally assigned Morrow and me a very delicate Article 32, pre-court-martial investigation in Kosovo, after which she'd been transferred into my spooky unit. We had subsequently fenced in court many times, and I would prefer to say we were evenly matched and I gave as good as I got. But we weren't and I didn't. Frankly, it was a bit of a relief for me when she transferred back out. Not that I was keeping score or anything, but the Army does. She was blond, extremely attractive, and, as you might expect, clever, brilliant, and fiercely competitive. And also witty, well-mannered, and charming; however, let's not get too wrapped around the gratuitous footnotes.

She and I became professionally close, and I considered trying to become emotionally close, then physically close—perhaps I confused that order—but it never worked out. It could work, however. In fact, this conversation wasn't a complete waste of my time, as he'd just reminded me that I owed her a phone call.

When it became clear I wasn't going to reply, he said, "I want you to talk to her, Sean. You need to adjust your attitude, and I think the conversation will be helpful. Lisa's been with Culper, Hutch, and Westin this past year. She's had a wonderful time. She loves them and they love her."

No doubt we both recognized we could play this game for another hour, so to do us both a favor I cut to the chase and asked, "Is this negotiable?"


"Is your nonnegotiability negotiable?"

It appeared not. He replied, "You know your options."

Okay, my options.

One—tell him to stuff this opportunity up his butt, followed by my resignation. Among other problems with this course was the very pressing issue of who'd send me a check every month.

Option two—a good soldier does not question his orders; he snaps his heels and marches smartly off to his fate, at least pretending to believe that those who wear stars are celestially wise and all-knowing. Across the highway are several sections of monuments dedicated to this strangely popular option.

Oh, there was also, I suppose, a third option, though it is so disgraceful I hesitate to bring it up and, clearly, never gave it a second thought. But this would be the one where I reported to this firm, screwed up everything I touched—including a partner's wife— peed in the morning coffee, and got sent back to the Army labeled unfit for civilian duty.

As I said, though, I never gave it a second thought. What was the big deal anyway? I had caught a bad rap. Nobody goes the full three rounds of a military career who can't stand on their head for a year or two. And perhaps it would turn out to be fun, enlightening, and all the rest of that bullshit Clapper promised. For that matter, regarding Clapper, perhaps I misjudged his motives. He probably was concerned for me, my career, my chances of surviving the next promotion board.

So I contemplated this and said, "Perhaps I've been hasty." After a moment of further reflection, I added, "You're right. I could use. . . you know. . . professional growth, a chance to try something different . . . new horizons."

I smiled and he smiled back. He said, "Sean, I was really afraid you were going to be difficult about this. I'm glad you understand."

"I do understand." I looked him dead in the eye and promised, "And I assure you, General, I will do you and the Army proud."

P. S. , see you in a week, two at the outside, big guy.


The photo was a clean shot, revealing a face both lovely and angular. Full lips, pert nose, eyes that were deeply and memorably green. She was smiling when the picture was taken, a likable smile, effortless and without artifice. Eyes that festered with sympathy. No makeup. No jewelry. She was beautiful, yet tended to ignore or at least not amplify it. He liked this and so many other things about her.

She would be first.

He stole another glance at her bedroom window; the light was still on, and he returned to studying her photo, as though it could yield a clue he had somehow overlooked.

She appeared younger than thirty—no wrinkles, droopiness under her eyes, nor flab as best he could tell. Yet he knew for a fact that she had crossed that benchmark in May, was single, currently uninvolved, and had lived in the Washington suburbs the past three years.

He had unobtrusively edged into line behind her two days before at a nearby Starbucks, had sniffed her perfume and approved: expensive and tasteful. About five foot eight, possibly 115 pounds, and she carried herself well; poised, but with no hint of the conceit or brashness one expects from women with her looks and brains. She was courteous and friendly to the girl behind the counter and left a seventy-five-cent tip for a $1.25 coffee—overly generous by his reckoning—no sugar, no cream. She was not a health nut;he'd twice seen her eat meat, but she appeared mindful of bad habits.

Actually, she had to be the first.

He had batted it around inside his head three dozen times, chewed over the pros and cons, pondered it so hard that he nearly gave himself a splitting headache.

It had to be her.

Put her off and the whole thing could collapse.

But how?

By far, she was the riskiest of the group. He was methodical by necessity, and had actually devised a computer program to help him judge and assess these things. Plug in this factor and that vulnerability, and the algorithms worked their twisty magic and spit out a number. Ten was the level of most damnable difficulty. She was an eight, and anything above seven worried him—the program wasn't flawless, and there surely were factors he had overlooked, qualities he had failed to plumb, so the magnitude could be underestimated. He'd never done a nine or, God forbid, a ten. Over the years, he had considered a few and walked away. The odds of a blunder were simply too damned high and the penalty of failure unthinkable. A seven also happened to be on the list, edging toward eight, but the rest were sixes and below. His usual method was to save the hardest for last, as a mistake in the beginning could unravel the whole thing.

But it wasn't an option.

It had to be her.

So, back to how.

The top file on the car seat beside him was thick with details about her life and habits, acquired mostly with very little trouble from public sources and several days of cautious snooping. A few critical details had been obtained elsewhere.

She had clockwork habits. At 5:30 each and every morning her bedroom light flicked on. Fifteen minutes later she came bolting out the front door in spandex running tights, and she certainly had the figure for them: long, lean legs and a bodacious ass. A dark runner's shirt that contrasted handsomely with her short blond hair and practical but expensive running shoes completed her morning attire. She was fit and very, very fast. He had clocked her twice—five miles in thirty-two minutes over a course that was hilly and daunting, without ever varying her route or pace.

She had been a long-distance track star in high school and college. Her college newspaper described her as a steady performer, consistently placing first against weak schools, but apt to disappoint against the powerhouses. The rebuke struck him as unfair. She ran in the East, where blacks dominated, and did quite well for a white girl. Also, she'd managed a 3.9 GPA as an undergrad at the University of Virginia and graduated fifteenth in her class from Harvard Law. He regarded it as shameful that they couldn't meet under less complicated conditions. He preferred intelligent, accomplished, athletic women and felt certain they would hit it off.

She lived alone in a community of townhouse dwellers whose homes, economic stations, and lifestyles were tedious and ordinary. However, the neighborhood was clean, safe, and a short commute from her office. She was sociable with her neighbors, but that was as far as it went. Her close friends were made at work and elsewhere.

Her townhouse was a two-story end unit, brick-fronted, slat-sided, with a one-car garage tucked underneath the living room. Thick woods were behind the complex, apparently left standing by a thoughtful builder to afford a sense of privacy. He appreciated the irony. Both nights he had scaled a tall tree and, using night-vision goggles, had observed her through a window.

After her runs she took thirty minutes to shower, dress, and breakfast. At 7:15 her garage door slid open and her shiny gray Nissan Maxima backed out. A brief stop at the Starbucks three blocks from her townhouse, then a straight scoot to her office. A Daytimer crammed with notes and appointments dictated her life. She lunched at her desk and shopped only on weekends. Her evenings were the only erratic and unpredictable part of her schedule. She tended to work late, occasionally past midnight.

She dated one man at a time, as best he could tell, and was finicky and old-fashioned about matters of romance. Spontaneous pickups and one-night stands weren't part of her style. Too bad, because he could picture scenarios where this would be a workable approach, but he could more easily picture a swift brush-off fraught with unacceptable complications.

She was cautious and had commendable security habits. With her looks she should be, in his view. She locked her car door every time she left it. Penetrating her workplace was out of the question. She had installed a security system in her townhouse that she meticulously activated every time she walked out the door. A fairly good system in his expert judgment: a battery backup; the windows and doors were wired; a motion detection system was installed in the living room; and he guessed there was at least one panic button, most likely positioned in her bedroom. She tended, however, to leave open the second-floor bathroom window, presumably to prevent odor and mildew.

That flaw, however, did him no good. His script was everything, and no matter how he jiggled, twisted, or warped it, that glaring oversight could not be made to fit.

He kneaded his neck, turned off the car's overhead light, and tossed the file back on the passenger's seat. His decision was made, and in every way he could consider it made sense.

He would take her where she least expected it. He would move in when her alertness and instincts were at their lowest ebb, and would approach her in such a manner that she would let down her defenses and allow him near.

She would be his calling card, and what a memorable one she would be.



On Sale
Dec 12, 2007
Page Count
448 pages

Brian Haig

About the Author

Brian Haig is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels featuring JAG attorney Sean Drummond. A former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he has also been published in journals ranging from the New York Times to USA Today to Details. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and four children. For more information on the author you can visit his website at

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