by W.E.B. Griffin


[ ONE ]
Office of the Director
The Central Intelligence Agency
Langley, Virginia
1725 6 June 2005

“Secretary Hall is on Secure Two for you, Boss.”

The Director of Central Intelligence’s private reaction to the announcement was somewhat less than unrestrained joy. John Powell had a headache, for one thing, and for another he had promised his wife that he would really try to get home for once on time, if not early. They were having dinner at the White House.

But he smiled his thanks at his executive assistant, picked up his phone, and pushed the second of four red buttons on his telephone.

“And a very good afternoon to you, Mr. Secretary,” he said. “How may the Central Intelligence Agency be of service?”

“I’m glad I caught you, John.”

“I was, literally, about to stand up and walk out the door. What’s on your mind?”

“We have what might be a problem,” Secretary of Homeland Security Matthew Hall said.

“You sound serious, Matt.”

“Unfortunately, I am.”

“You’re on a secure line?”


“So tell me.”

“Are you going to the White House tonight?”

“I don’t think you’re just idly curious, Matt. Yeah. Aren’t you?”

“I think we should talk this through before we go there and are asked about it.”

“Talk what through? You want to come over here? I’ll wait for you.”

“What I’d really like for you to do is come to the Mayflower. Suite 404.”

“You mean right now?”

“Right now, John. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was important.”

The director didn’t reply for a moment. Then he said, “Matt, I don’t want to have to come all the way into the district only to have to go back across the bridge to get dressed and then go back across that damned bridge again. At rush-hour. Will this wait until I go home and put on a black tie? That way I can bring Eleanor with me, and we’ll be right around the corner from the White House.”

“How would Eleanor feel about having a drink in the Mayflower bar with one of your bodyguards while we talk?”

“She won’t like it, but she’ll do it.”

“Okay, John, thank you. I’ll be expecting you.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can, Matt. Four oh four, you said?”

“Four oh four,” Hall said.

“Okay,” the DCI said, and hung up.

Then he telephoned his wife, told her that he was just now leaving the office for the house, but as soon as he got there, he would have to take a quick shower, put on a dinner jacket, and leave immediately. He told her she had her choice of going with him, right now, and having a drink in the bar of the Mayflower while he talked to someone, or going into the district later alone, and meeting him outside the Mayflower, or at the White House, whichever she preferred.

Eleanor said that what she really would prefer was that he come home as he said he would really try to do, and that they go to the White House together, but since that was obviously out of the question, again, she would do whatever was best for him.

“Let me think about it on the way home,” he said.

“Do that, John,” she said. “Think about it.”

Then she hung up.




[TWO ]
The Mayflower Hotel
1127 Connecticut Avenue, Northwest
Washington, D. C.
1925 6 June 2005

The Director of Central Intelligence had been driven alone, his choice, from his home to the Mayflower Hotel in a dark blue GMC Yukon. The Yukon was armored, and the windows were deeply darkened. There were three shortwave antennae on the roof.

But the vehicle, the director believed, would not attract very much attention. There were probably three hundred nearly identical vehicles moving around the district, and by no means did all of them belong to the government. He suspected that maybe half of them belonged to, say, middle level bureaucrats in, say, the Department of Agriculture, who had bought them to impress the neighbors, as a, say, middle level bank manager in Saint Louis, Missouri, would have bought a Jaguar or a Cadillac he really couldn’t afford for the same purpose.

In Washington, prestige came with power, rather than money. In Washington and environs, the way to impress the neighbors was to look as if you were important enough to move around in an armored, window darkened Yukon with antennae on the roof.

The DCI’s Yukon and the DCI himself attracted little attention when he rolled up in front of the Mayflower, quickly got out, and marched across the lobby to the bank of elevators, even though he was preceded and trailed by security men.

They rose to the fourth floor. One of the security men got off the elevator first, looked up and down the corridor, and then indicated the direction of Suite 404 with a nod of his head.

The security man waited until the DCI started off the elevator, then led the way down the corridor to 404, where he knocked three times on the door.

It was opened by a young man in a dinner jacket. The security man quickly scrutinized the guy. He was not of the beady-eyed political lackey sort that the security man was accustomed to encountering in this town. He showed confidence and control.

“Who are you?” the security man asked, not very politely.

The young man glanced down the corridor, saw the DCI approaching, and evenly replied, “If you’re looking for Secretary Hall, this is it.” He opened the door wider.

The DCI appeared in the doorway.

“Come on in, John,” the Secretary of Homeland Security called.

The DCI entered the suite.

The living room looked like someone lived there, he thought, rather than as if it were just one more “executive suite” occupied by some businessman—not government employee; a government per diem allowance wouldn’t come close to paying for this place—in Washington for a few days.

The young man in the dinner jacket started to close the door in the face of the security guard, who held it open with his foot and hand and looked to the DCI for guidance.

“It’s okay,” the DCI said, and the security man removed his foot and hand, and the door closed in his face.

“John, this is my executive assistant, Charley Castillo,” the secretary said.

The DCI smiled and put out his hand, but didn’t say anything.

“How do you do, sir?” Castillo said politely, shaking the hand.

“Eleanor downstairs?” the secretary asked.

“No. She’s coming in later. I told her to call my cellular when she got close,” the DCI said.

“Well, maybe we can wrap this up before she gets here,” the secretary said. “Can we get you a drink, John?”

“Thank you, no. What’s this all about, Matt?”

The secretary picked up a folder from the coffee table—the DCI noticed that it bore no security stamps of any kind—and handed it to him.

The document inside, six single spaced pages, also was barren of security stamps of any kind. But two sentences into it, the DCI was aware he was reading an intel filing.

This one suggested the strong possibility that the Boeing 727 that had gone missing from Luanda, Angola, had been stolen by, or for, a Russian arms dealer by the name of Vasily Respin, either for parts, to be used by one of his enterprises, or to be sold to others.

“This sounds more credible than some of the other theories I’ve heard,” the DCI said. “Where did this come from? And is this why you asked me to come here?”

“I asked you to come here because I thought we could handle something that’s come up between us,” Hall said. “I’d rather, if possible, that we kept this out of school, John.”

The DCI nodded, and waited for Hall to go on.

“John, did you see Natalie Cohen’s memo that I was to get everything, including raw data, from everybody about the 727?” Hall asked.

“I saw it, briefly wondered why something like it would come from the national security advisor, then ordered that it be carried out,” the DCI said.

“Would you say that that file met the criteria for material I was to get?”


“I didn’t get it, John. That’s the problem,” the secretary said.

“You obviously got it from somebody, Matt. I don’t understand.”

“The problem is that I should have gotten it from you, and I didn’t. The satburst was filed to Langley by your station chief in Luanda,” Hall said, nodding at the file the DCI was still holding in his hand.

“And the filing?”

“The satburst was either spiked or lost, or something, in Langley. I never got it from you.”

“And the filing?” the DCI repeated, somewhat impatiently.

“That was never sent, because there was no response to the satburst.”

“I can’t believe that,” the DCI said.

“Well, that’s what happened, John,” Hall said.

“Then where did you get it? The satburst and the filing?”

“Charley brought them to me just before I called you,” the secretary said, and then added: “When he came back from Luanda.”

The DCI glanced at Castillo. I thought he said this guy was his executive assistant. So what was he doing in Luanda? And with his nose obviously into something that’s none of the Department of Homeland Security’s business? How did he come into possession of this file? How did he know this file was sent to Langley? That it was either spiked there, or that something else happened to it?

“You are going to tell me what’s going on here, right, Matt?”

“I am, and I’m afraid you’re not going to like it.”

“We won’t know that until you tell me, will we? How about starting with what Mr. Castillo was doing in Luanda, and how he came into possession of this?” The DCI held up the file.

“He was in Luanda because the President ordered him to find out what everybody knows about the missing 727 and when they learned it,” Hall said.

“Everybody meaning who?”

“The CIA, the DIA, the FBI, the State Department, the Office of Naval Intelligence . . . everybody,” Hall said.

“I wasn’t told,” the DCI said, a little coldly.

“Nobody was,” Hall said.

“Except you,” Powell said, coldly.

“That’s the way the President wanted it, John.”

“Is Natalie involved in this?”

“She knows about it,” Hall replied. “The President told her why he wanted everybody to send me everything . . . why she was to send the memo.”

“I will be goddamned!” Powell said, white-faced.

“Charley thought, after he’d gone through all the material Natalie’s memo produced, that the obvious place for him to start was in Luanda. I agreed, and that’s where he went.”

“You’re telling me, unless I’m getting this wrong, that the President authorized you to sniff around on my lawn,” the DCI said.

“He did. Yours and everybody else’s,” Hall said.

“I wonder whose idea this was?” the DCI asked, almost of himself.

“It doesn’t really matter, does it? The President ordered that it be done.”

The DCI turned to Castillo.

“Castillo, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How did you come into possession of this?” the DCI asked. “How do you know that it was sent to Langley?”

Castillo looked at Hall, who nodded.

“The officer who wrote it gave it to me,” Castillo said.

“And who is this officer?”

Castillo looked at Hall again, and Hall nodded again.

“H. Richard Miller, sir.”

“And he is?”

“He’s the CIA station chief in Luanda, sir,” Castillo said. “His cover is assistant military attaché at the embassy.”

“And why would he do any of the foregoing?” the DCI asked, icily.

“Easy, John,” the secretary said.

“ . . . Reveal his CIA connection?” the DCI went on, angrily. “His cover? Give you access to classified CIA files?”

Castillo didn’t reply.

“Answer the question, Mr. Castillo,” the DCI said, not pleasantly.

“That sounded like an order, John,” the secretary said. “I think you should keep in mind that Charley doesn’t work for you . . .”

The DCI glared at the secretary.

“ . . . And that the only superior authority either one of us can appeal to is the President,” the secretary went on. “Given that, I think we should really make an effort to deal with this between us.”

The DCI looked at the secretary for a moment, but didn’t speak.

“Answer the director’s question, Charley, please,” the secretary said. “Tell him what you told me.”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said. “Sir, I informed Miller that what I was doing was at the direct order of the President. I can only presume that he felt that orders from the Commander-in-Chief carried greater weight than any others to which he was subject.”

“Disclosure of classified material to unauthorized persons is a felony under the U.S. Code,” the DCI said. “As is the receipt by unauthorized persons of classified material.”

“The operative word there, John, is ‘unauthorized,’ ” the secretary said. “Charley was authorized to see the file first because of Cohen’s memo, and second . . . or maybe first . . . because he was acting at the orders of the President. There has been no disclosure of classified material to unauthorized persons. Let’s get at least that straight between us. I don’t want Miller to get in trouble over this.”

“Miller doesn’t work for you, Matt,” the DCI said. “I decide what is acceptable—for that matter, criminal—behavior on his part and what’s not.”

Hall looked at him for a long moment, and then said: “That being the case, I don’t think we have anything more to talk about, do you, John?”

The telephone on the side table by the couch rang.

Castillo looked at the secretary for guidance.

“Answer it, Charley,” Hall ordered.

Castillo went to the telephone and picked it up.

He said “hello” and then immediately switched to German. The conversation lasted not much more than a minute, and then he hung up.

“That was very interesting, sir,” he said to Hall.

“Well, as soon as the director leaves, you can tell me what it was all about,” the secretary said. “You are about to leave, Mr. Director, aren’t you?”

It was a moment before the DCI answered: “I don’t want to leave on this kind of a sour note, Matt. Exactly what is it you want of me?”

“My hope, which, now that I think about it, was probably naïve, was that you would accept this situation as a problem for both of us. Instead . . .” He paused, obviously searching for the right words.

“Go on, Matt.”

“Instead, you’re acting like a typical bureaucrat protecting his turf.”

“That’s what you think, eh?”

“Frankly, John, you seem far more concerned that somebody has found out the CIA has egg on its face—and that the President’s going to hear about it—than you do about fixing what’s wrong.”

“Is that so?”

“What I had hoped our friendly chat would accomplish was that I could truthfully tell the President that we had uncovered a stoppage in the flow of information at Langley, that I had told you about it, and had your assurance you would personally look into it and get back to me.”

The DCI looked at him.

“The President’s going to know about that filing tonight, John, and hear how I came by it,” Hall went on. “And I’m going to relay Charley’s concern that Miller is probably—how do I put this?—in some jeopardy because he decided his first duty was to obey the orders of the Commander-in-Chief and acted accordingly.”

The DCI looked as if he was going to say something, then changed his mind.

“And now, if you’ll excuse me, John,” Hall said, “I have to go home and put on my tux.”


From BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT — Book I in the best-selling THE PRESIDENTIAL AGENT series.
Published December 22, 2004.