Read Extraordinary Powers Online

Authors: Joseph Finder

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage, #General

Extraordinary Powers (2 page)

BOOK: Extraordinary Powers
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

But as I said, the story begins at Harrison Sinclair’s funeral. It was there, as the mourners began to disperse, shaking hands with one another under their black umbrellas, walking quickly back to their cars, that a tall, lanky man in his early sixties, with tousled silver hair, slipped up to me and introduced himself.

His suit was rumpled, his tie askew, but beneath all the sloppiness, his clothes were expensive: a double-breasted charcoal wool suit of impeccable tailoring and a striped shirt that looked like it had been custom-made for him in Savile Row. Although I’d never met him, I recognized him at once as Alexander Truslow, an old CIA man of considerable renown. Like Hal Sinclair, he was a pillar of the Establishment, with a reputation for moral rectitude. For a few weeks during the Watergate scandal of 1973-74, he served as acting Director of Central Intelligence. Nixon disliked him—largely because, it was said, Truslow refused to play ball with the Nixon White House and involve the CIA in the cover-up—and moved swiftly to replace him with a political appointee more to his liking.

Soft-spoken and elegant in his slightly disheveled way, Alex Truslow was one of those well-mannered, well-bred WASP Yankee types, like Cyrus Vance or Elliot Richardson, who radiate fundamental decency. He had retired from the Agency after Nixon passed him over, but naturally he never aired any gripes about the President; that would be ungentlemanly. Hell, I would have called a press conference, but that was not Alex’s way.

After casting around a bit, doing the lecture circuit, he had formed his own international consulting firm, based in Boston, which was known informally as the “Corporation.” The Corporation advised corporations and law firms around the world on how to deal with an ever-changing, ever-baffling world market. Not surprisingly, given Truslow’s upstanding reputation in the intelligence community, the Corporation also worked quite closely with CIA.

Alexander Truslow was one of the most respected, eminent men in the intelligence community. After Hal Sinclair’s death, Truslow was known to be on the shortlist to replace him. For reasons of morale in CIA’s ranks alone, Truslow should have been named, so popular was he among the younger officers and the old boys alike. True, there were grumblings about Truslow’s work in the “private sector.” And then there were those with good reason to fear a “new broom.” Even so, as he introduced himself to Molly and me, I silently wagered that I was shaking hands with the next Director of the CIA.

“I’m terribly sorry,” he said to Molly. Truslow’s eyes were moist.

“Your father was a wonderful man. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Molly only nodded. Did she know him? I couldn’t tell.

“Ben Ellison, is that right?” he said, shaking my hand.

“Good to meet you, Mr. Truslow,” I said.

“Alex. I’m surprised we haven’t run into each other around Boston,” he said. “You may know I’m a friend of Bill Steams’s.” William Caslin Steams I’ll is the senior partner of Putnam & Steams, and himself an old CIA man. Also, my boss. Such were the circles in which I moved.

“He’s mentioned you,” I said.

A few minutes of awkward chat followed as we walked toward where the cars were parked, and then Truslow got to what was clearly his main point “You know, I’ve mentioned to Bill that I’d be very much interested in having you do some legal work for my firm.” I smiled pleasantly. “I’m sorry, but I haven’t had anything to do with CIA or intelligence or anything of that sort since I left the Agency. I don’t think I’m the one you want.”

“Oh, your background has nothing to do with it,” he p. “It’s purely business, and I’m told you’re the best intellectual-property attorney in Boston.”

“You’ve been badly misled,” I said with a polite chuckle. “There are lots better than me.”

“You’re too modest,” he replied gently. “Let’s have lunch sometime soon.” He gave a lopsided smile. “All right, Ben?”

“I’m sorry, Alex. I’m flattered—but I’m afraid I’m not interested.

My loss.”

Truslow looked directly at me with his sad brown eyes. They reminded me of a basset hound’s. He shrugged, and shook my hand again.

“Then it’s my loss, Ben,” he said, smiled forlornly, and disappeared into the back of a black Lincoln limousine.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that it wouldn’t end there.

But I could not help thinking it odd that he would want to hire me, and by the time I understood why, it was too late.


THE corporation THE INDEPENDENT Is Germany on the Verge of Collapse?

FROM NIGEL CLEMONS IN BONN In the bleak months since the stock market crash that has plunged Germany into its worst economic and political crisis since the 1920s, many here have come to believe that this country, once Europe’s powerhouse, is on the verge of collapse.

In a violent demonstration yesterday in Leipzig, over one hundred thousand people protested the economic privation, plummeting standard of living, and sudden loss of thousands of jobs throughout the nation.

There were even widespread calls for a dictator to restore Germany to its former greatness.

In recent days there have been food riots in Berlin, outbreaks of neo-Nazi and right-wing extremist terrorism, as well as an enormous rise in street crimes especially in what was formerly West Germany. The nation is nearing the end of a fiercely contested election of the next chancellor, and ten days ago the head of the Christian Democratic Party was assassinated.

Government sources here continue to blame the recent German crash on the global recession as well as on the fragility of the recently integrated national stock market, the Deutsche Borse.

Some-observers pointedly recall that the last economic crisis of this magnitude, during the Weimar era, gave rise to Adolf Hitler.


The law offices of Putnam & Steams are located in the narrow streets of Boston’s financial district, amid granite-fronted bank buildings: Boston’s version of Wall Street, with fewer bars. Our offices occupy two floors of a handsome old building on Federal Street, on the ground floor of which is a respectable old Brahmin bank famous for laundering money for the Mafia.

Putnam & Steams, I should probably explain at this point, is one of the CIA’s “outside” law firms. It’s all perfectly legitimate; it doesn’t violate the Agency’s charter (which prohibits them from domestic shenanigans; international shenanigans are apparently okay). Fairly often, the CIA requires legal counsel in matters involving, say, immigration and naturalization (if they’re trying to spirit an intelligence defector into the country) or real estate (if they need to acquire property, a safe house, or an office or anything else that can’t be traced to Langley). Or, and this is Bill Steams’s particular expertise, moving funds around, in and out of numbered accounts in Luxembourg or Zurich or Grand Cayman.

Putnam & Steams, though, does a lot more than the CIA’s dirty work. It’s a general practice, white-shoe firm comprising some thirty lawyers, twelve partners, who practice a range of, law from corporate litigation to real estate to divorce to estates to tax to intellectual property.

That last item, intellectual property, is my specialty: patents and copyrights, who invented what, who stole whose invention. You remember a few years back when a famous sneaker manufacturer came up with a gimmick that allowed the wearer to pump the shoe up with air, for a cost of a mere hundred and fifty dollars a pair. That was my handiwork—the legal work, I mean; I devised an ironclad patent, or as ironclad as you can realistically get.

For the last several months I had been keeping twenty-four large dolls in my office, which no doubt disconcerted my stuffier clients. I was helping a toy manufacturer out in Western Massachusetts defend his Big Baby Doll line of products. You probably haven’t heard of Big Baby Dolls. This is because the claim was settled against my client; I’m not proud of it. I did much better restraining a cookie company from using in its TV ads a little animated creature that suspiciously resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy.

I was one of two intellectual-property lawyers at Putnam & Steams, which officially makes us a “department,” if you count the paralegals and legal secretaries and all that. This means the firm gets to advertise that we’re a full-service legal corporation, here to handle all your needs, even your copyrights and your patents. All your legal needs serviced under one roof. One-stop shopping.

I was considered a good attorney, but not because I loved it or took much interest in it. After all, as the old saw has it, lawyers are the only persons in whom ignorance of the law is not punished.

Instead, I am blessed with a rare neurological gift, present in less than 0.1 percent of the population: an eidetic (or photographic, as it’s colloquially known) memory. It doesn’t make me smarter than anyone else, but it certainly made my life easier in college and law school, when it came time to memorize a passage or a case. I can see the page, as if it were a picture, in my mind. This capability is not something I generally let people know about. It’s not the sort of thing that wins you many friends. And yet it is so much a part of who I am, and always has been, that I must constantly be mindful not to let it set me apart from others.

To their credit, the founding partners, Bill Steams and the late James Putnam, spent nearly their entire earnings their first few years on interior decoration. The office, all Persian rugs and fragile antiques from the Regency period, exudes a stifling, hushed elegance. Even the ring of the telephone is muted. The receptionist, who’s (naturally) English, sits at an antique library table whose surface is polished to a high gloss. I have seen clients, real estate moguls who in their own lairs strut around barking orders to their minions, walk into our reception area as cowed and discomfited as chastened schoolboys.

It was a little over a month since Hal Sinclair’s funeral, and I was rushing to a meeting in my own office. I passed Ken Mcelvoy, a junior partner who had been enmeshed in some unspeakably dull corporate litigation for almost six months. He was carrying a huge stack of depositions and looked miserable, like some wretch out of Bleak House or something. I gave poor Dickensian Mcelvoy a smile and headed for my office.

My secretary, Darlene, gave me a quick wave, and said: “Everyone’s there.”

Darlene is the funkiest person in this firm, which isn’t hard to accomplish. She usually wears all black. Her hair is dyed a jet black; her eye shadow is midnight blue. But she’s fiercely efficient, so I don’t give her any grief.

I had called this meeting to resolve a dispute that had been carried out through the mail for more than six months. The matter concerned an exercise machine called the Alpine Ski, a magnificently designed device that simulates downhill skiing, giving the user not only the aerobic benefits you get from something like the Nordic Track but at the same time, a serious muscular workout.

The Alpine Ski’s inventor, Herb Schell, was my client. A former personal trainer in Hollywood, he had made a bundle with this invention. Then suddenly, about a year ago, cheaply produced ads began to run on late-night television for something called the Scandinavian Skier, unmistakably a knockoff of Herb’s invention. It was a lot less expensive, too: whereas the real Alpine Ski sells for upward of six hundred dollars (and Alpine Ski Gold for over a thousand), the Scandinavian Skier was going for $129.99.

Herb Schell was already seated in my office, along with the president and chief executive officer of E-Z Fit, the company that was manufacturing Scandinavian Skier, Arthur Sommer; and his attorney, a high-powered lawyer named Stephen Lyons, whom I’d heard of but never met.

On some level I found it ironic that both Herb Schell and Arthur Sommer were paunchy and visibly in lousy shape. Herb had confided to me over lunch shortly after we met that, now that he was no longer a personal trainer, he’d grown tired of working out all the time; he much preferred liposuction.

“Gentlemen,” I said. We shook hands all around. “Let’s resolve this thing.” “Amen,” Steve Lyons said. His enemies (who are legion) have been known to refer to him as “Lyin” Lyons” and his small, aggressive law firm as “the Lyons den.” “All right,” I said. “Your client has blatantly infringed my client’s design, down to the last claimed feature. We’ve been through all this dozens of times. It’s a god damned Chinese copy, and unless this is resolved today, we are prepared to go into federal court and seek an injunction. We’ll also seek damages, which, as you know in cases of willful infringement, are treble.” Patent law tends to be a very mild, rather dull way to earn a living the bland leading the bland, I like to call it and so I cherished my few opportunities to be confrontational.

Arthur Sommer flushed, presumably with anger, but said nothing. His thin lips curled up in a small, tight smile. His attorney leaned back in his chair: ominous body language if ever there was such a thing.

“Look, Ben,” Lyons said. “Since there really isn’t any cause of action here, my client is generously willing to make a courtesy settlement offer of five hundred thousand. I’ve advised him against it, but this charade is costing him and all of us “

“Five hundred thousand? Try twenty times that.”

“Sorry, Ben,” Lyons said. “This patent isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.” He clasped his hands together. “We got an on sale bar here.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I have evidence that Alpine Ski went on sale more than a year before the patent filing date,” Lyons replied smugly. “Sixteen months before, to be exact. So the damned patent’s not valid. On-sale statutory bar.”

This was a new approach on his part, and it was unsettling. Up to now, all we’d been hashing out, in letter after letter, was whether Scandinavian Skier materially resembled Alpine Ski: whether it infringed the claims of the patent, to put it in legalese. Now he was citing something called the “on sale” doctrine, under which an invention can’t be patented if it was “in public use or on sale” more than a year before the date that the patent was applied for.

But I did not let on my surprise. A good attorney must be a skilled bullshit artist. “Nice try,” I said. “That’s not really use, Steve, and you know it.” It sounded good, whatever it meant.

BOOK: Extraordinary Powers
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Exit Wound by Alexandra Moore
Adam's Promise by Julianne MacLean
Bloodring by Faith Hunter
Christmas Cover-Up by Eason, Lynette
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale