Read Extraordinary Powers Online
Authors: Joseph Finder
Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage, #General
Now I picked up the bedside phone. It was after one-thirty in the morning, but someone answered at CNN’s Washington office, no doubt a young intern, who gave me the information I needed.
We met for a very early breakfast at the Mayflower. Miles Preston was as hearty and charming as I remembered him.
“Did you ever remarry?” he asked over his second cup of coffee. “What happened to Laura in Paris, my God, I don’t know how you ever survived it—”
“Yes,” I interrupted. “I’m married to a woman named Martha Sinclair. A pediatrician.”
“A doctor, eh? Could be trouble, Ben. A wife must be just clever enough to understand her husband’s cleverness, and just stupid enough to admire it.”
“She may be a little too bright for my own good. How about you, Miles?
As I recall, you had a rather steady stream of women.”
“Never did the dirty deed. Ah, well, if only you could fall into the arms of a woman without falling into her clutches, hmm?” He chortled quietly and signaled the waiter for a third cup of coffee. “Sinclair,” he murmured. “Sinclair … You didn’t marry the scion of the proprietor of the Company Store, did you? Not Harrison Sinclair’s daughter?”
“That’s the one.”
“Then please accept my condolences. Was he … murdered, Ben?”
“Subtle as always, Miles. Why do you ask?”
“I’m sorry. Forgive me. But in my business, I can’t ignore rumors.”
“Well, I was hoping you might be able to enlighten me on that,” I said.
“Whether he was or not, I have no idea. But you’re not the first to suggest as much to me. And it doesn’t make any sense to me my father-in-law just didn’t have personal enemies, so far as I know.”
“But you mustn’t think in terms of personalities. Think instead in terms of politics.”
“Harrison Sinclair was known to be a vociferous supporter of helping out Russia.”
“A lot of people don’t want that.” “Sure,” I said. “Plenty of Americans oppose throwing money at the Russians good money after bad, and all that. Especially in a time of global financial difficulty.”
“That’s not what I mean. There are people no, let’s call them forces, Ben who want Russia to collapse altogether.”
“What sort of forces?”
“Consider this: Eastern Europe is a total disaster. It’s full of valuable natural resources, and it’s roiling with dissent. Many Eastern Europeans have forgotten Stalinism already, and they long for dictatorship again. So it’s ripe for the picking. Wasn’t it Voltaire who said, “The world is a vast temple dedicated to Discord’?”
“I don’t entirely follow your logic.”
“Germany, man. Germany. The wave of the future. We’re about to see a new German dictatorship. And it won’t happen accidentally, Ben. It’s been in the planning for a good long time. And those planners don’t want to see a revived, strengthened Russia. Bear in mind how the German-Russian national rivalry so dominated this century’s two world wars. A weak Russia ensures a strong Germany. Maybe just maybe your father-in-law, a strong advocate of a strong, democratic Russia, got in the way. By the way, who’s slated to take his place?”
“Hmm. Bit of a stickler, isn’t he, our Alex? Not exactly a favorite of the old boys. Shouldn’t be surprised if he took a little spill himself.
Well, I’ve got a squash game. Being a bachelor, you understand, I have to keep in shape. Your American ladies have become so demanding these days.”
An hour later at National Airport, just before I boarded the shuttle to Boston, I left a message with Alexander Truslow’s office, agreeing to meet with him.
The taxicab, a battered Town Taxi missing a door handle on the right rear side and driven by a borderline psychotic, pulled up to my house at quarter after nine. I quickly changed clothes—Molly was still at work—and drove the Acura to work. And only fifteen minutes late.
Darlene fixed me with a level stare and said, “You had a nine o’clock conference call, or did you forget?”
“I was detained in Washington,” I said. “On business. Could you call with my apologies, and reschedule?”
“What about Sachs? He waited about half an hour.”
“Shit. Could you get me his number? I’ll call him myself.”
“Also”—she handed me a pink message slip—“Molly called. Said it’s urgent.”
I wondered what could possibly be so urgent that Molly would call at this time of the day, when she’s normally on rounds at the hospital.
“Thanks,” I said, and entered my office, brushed past the row of twenty-four three-foot Big Baby Dolls, and sank into my leather desk chair. I sat there thinking for a moment, considered asking Darlene to put through the conference call, and instead dialed Molly’s page number.
No response; I left a message with the page operator.
I had work to do, a good bit of it, made all the worse by my lateness, but I was in no condition to concentrate on patent law. I picked up the phone to buzz Bill Steams’s office, then changed my mind and replaced the handset. My meeting with Truslow was set for tomorrow morning, but then, Steams probably already knew that.
I have one of those pin sculptures that are impossible to describe unless you’ve seen them. It’s called an “executive toy.” I made an impression of my fist out of hundreds of round headed pins, then admired the 3-D sculpture for a while. My other executive toy is an electronic basketball hoop on a slick looking acrylic backboard, mounted on the wall across from my desk. I tossed the black and white leatherette ball, swished it in, and it shouted in a fevered electronic voice, “Great shot!” then emitted a great prerecorded frenzied crowd-cheer.
Very out of place in this stuffy firm.
“De nada,” I said.
Ten minutes later, and still no call from Molly.
There was a soft knock on the doorjamb, and Bill Steams entered, wearing his Ben Franklin reading glasses.
“I’ll meet with Truslow,” I said.
I paused, looked at him sharply, felt my breath catch.
“Alex will be very pleased.”
I exhaled slowly. “That’s nice. But I haven’t decided, yet. I’m agreeing only to talk with him.”
He arched his eyebrows slightly, quizzically.
“How much would his business mean to the firm?” I asked.
Steams told me.
“I wouldn’t see my share of that until the end of the year,” I said, “after the profits are calculated, right?”
Now his brows furrowed slightly. “What are you getting at, Ben?”
“Simply this. Truslow wants me to represent him, and so do you. I happen to have a rather sudden need for a little cash.”
“I want him to pay me. Directly. Up front.”
Steams removed his glasses, folded them with a flick of the wrist, and put them in his breast pocket. “Ben, that’s highly—”
“It can be done. I’ll see Truslow, sign on with him, and he transfers a six-figure retainer directly to my account. Then we’ve got a deal.”
Steams hesitated a moment before shaking my hand. “Tough son of a bitch.
Sometimes I forget that. All right, Ben. We’ve got a deal.” He turned as if to leave, then turned back. “What changed your mind?” He came into my office, eased himself into one of the leather “client chairs,” and crossed his legs.
“I could get brownie points and say it was your powers of persuasion,” I said.
He smiled. “Or?”
“I’ll go for the brownie points,” I replied, giving a half smile. I pressed my open palm against the pin sculpture, creating a 3-D cyborg replica of my hand. “Listen,” I said after a moment’s silence, just as Steams was turning once again to go. “I had a talk with an old Agency friend last night.”
Steams nodded, staring blankly into the middle distance.
“He’s been looking into Harrison Sinclair’s death.” He blinked a few times and said, “So?”
“He believes it had something to do with the KGB.”
He rubbed his eyes with both hands and moaned. “Old Cold Warriors don’t let go of then-illusions very easily, do they? The KGB, and the Evil Empire, were truly great villains in their time. Really first-rate. But the KGB hasn’t existed for a few years now. And even when it did, they didn’t do things like assassinate directors of Central Intelligence.”
I considered showing him the photograph Ed Moore had given me, but just then the telephone buzzed. “It’s Molly,” came Darlene’s voice, metallic and flat.
I punched the button, picked up immediately.
“Molly—” I began.
She was crying, her words slurred, almost indecipherable. “Ben … something awful … “
I rushed into the corridor, toward the elevator, easing my coat on as I ran. Past Bill Steams, hunched in conversation with Jacobsen, a bright new associate. Steams looked up, gave me a quick, piercing, knowing glance as I ran.
As if … almost as if he knew.
A thousand years ago, it seems, I went through six months of CIA basic training at the “Farm”—Camp Peary, Virginia—where I learned everything from how to make a brush pass to how to pilot a small plane to how to aim a pistol from a moving car. One of my tradecraft instructors casually remarked that we would be learning the spy’s black arts so thoroughly that they would in time be automatic, almost instinctual. No matter what might take us by surprise, even years later, our bodies would know how to react a split second before our brains. I didn’t believe it; after my years as an attorney, I felt sure, my instincts must surely have faded.
I parked the Acura, not in our space behind the building, but a block and a half away, on Commonwealth Avenue.
Why? Instinct, I suppose; the ingrained habits of my time in the field.
Molly had discovered something terribly upsetting, something she couldn’t talk about over the phone. That was all, but still … I raced down the alley that ran behind our block of attached town houses, approaching our building’s back entrance, pausing at the door before taking out my key. Then, momentarily reassured, I entered and stole quietly up the dark, wooden back stairs.
Just the normal house noises. The ticking of heat coursing through pipes; the refrigerator cycling on; the whirring of countless mechanical objects that run our home.
Anxiously, my entire body tensed, I entered the long, narrow room that would someday be our library, but for the time being was barren. The floor-to-ceiling bookcases lay empty, the oil paint still not quite dry a day after it had been applied by Frank, the painter we’d hired.
I was about to cross over to the staircase and up to the bedroom when, in my peripheral vision, I noticed something.
Molly and I had stacked our books in this room, by subject, ready to put up on the shelves the moment they were dry. They stood in neat piles against one wall, covered with a clear plastic drop cloth. Next to them, also covered with a drop cloth, were the oak file drawers I had refinished a few years ago, filled with our personal files.
Someone had been through them.
They had been searched, expertly but noticeably. The drop cloths had been lifted and replaced incorrectly, so that now they were draped with the paint-bespattered surface inside, not outside.
I drew closer.
The books, still in orderly piles, were arranged differently.
But nothing seemed to have been taken; the signed copy of Alien Dulles’s The Craft of Intelligence was still there. Upon yet closer inspection, I could see that our files were in an entirely different order, some index tabs facing the wrong way, Molly’s medical school files where my law school files had been, everything slightly askew.
Nothing seemed, at first glance at least, to be missing. Merely rifled.
I had been meant to see this.
Someone had been in the house, had looked through our belongings. Had deliberately replaced them wrongly. So that I would notice. As … what?
My heartbeat accelerating, I hastened up the stairs and found Molly in the bedroom, curled up fetus like in the very center of our king-size bed. She was still wearing her work clothes, the sort of outfit she always wore to the hospital—a pleated gray skirt, a salmon cashmere sweater—but her hair, normally pulled back, was in disarray. I noticed she was wearing the gold cameo locket her father had given her. It had belonged to his mother, and had been passed down through generations of Sinclairs and Evanses. I think she believed it was lucky.
I came closer. Her eye makeup was badly smudged; she had been crying for a long time.
I touched my hand to the back of her neck, which was damp and hot.
“What happened?” I asked. “What is it?”
Clutched to her breast was the manila envelope.
“Where did you get that?”
Shaking, her voice trembling, she could barely speak. “Your briefcase,” she said. “Where you keep the bills. I was looking for the phone bill this morning … “
With an awful sense of dread I remembered that I had switched briefcases at home earlier that morning. She opened her eyes, red-rimmed. “I got out of work a couple of hours early, thanks to Burton, and decided to just crash,” she said slowly, thickly. “I couldn’t sleep. Too wired. I … decided to pay some bills, and I couldn’t find the phone bill. I looked in your briefcase … “
The photograph that I was now holding was of Molly’s father, after his death.
I had tried to protect her as much as possible from the horrible details of her father’s death. So badly burned was Harrison Sinclair’s body that an open coffin was out of the question. In addition to the terrible mutilation caused by the explosion of the gas tank, his neck had been nearly severed (during the crash, the forensic pathologist explained to me). I saw no reason for Molly to see her father this way; both she and I preferred that she remember him the way he was when they were last together, hale and ebullient and strong. I remember weeping in the morgue in Washington, seeing what was left of my father-in-law.
Molly certainly didn’t need to go through it But she insisted. She was a physician, she insisted; she had seen mutilation. Still, it’s different if it’s your own father, the sight had been, naturally, deeply traumatic. Mangled though her father’s body was, she had been able to identify it, pointing out the faded blue tattoo of a heart on his upper shoulder (which he’d gotten one drunken night in Honolulu during his service in World War II), his college class ring, the mole on his chin.