David Hagberg The Kill Zone

ISBN 13: 9780312873349

The Kill Zone

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9780312873349: The Kill Zone
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From the USA Today bestselling author of Joshua’s Hammer

The President of the United States has appointed Kirk McGarvey interim director of the CIA while his nomination winds its way through Congressional hearings. But what should have been the culmination of McGarvey’s career, has activated a twenty-year-old Russian plot sponsored by his former archenemy, General Baranov. Now, McGarvey is in the Kill Zone. He finds himself part of a plot that does know the Cold War is over, a plot that comes at McGarvey full throttle--from the grave of an enemy McGarvey had buried decades before.

Step by inexorable step, the assassin—a sleeper agent for all these years—is awakened from a holding state of mind. Brainwashed by KGB doctors to pull the trigger, the killer has unknowingly waited for a signal that has finally arrived.

And as the story races toward its breathtaking climax, it’s becoming clearer to McGarvey and his associates that the killer is someone within his inner circle.

A colleague or a friend.

Somebody very close.

Is there anyone McGarvey can trust when trust itself can kill him?

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About the Author:

David Hagberg is a former Air Force cryptographer who has traveled extensively in Europe, the Arctic, and the Caribbean, and has spoken at CIA functions. He has published more than twenty novels of suspense, including the bestselling High Flight, Assassin, and Joshua’s Hammer. He makes his home in Vero Beach, Florida.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:


 
IT HAD BEEN MADE TO LOOK
AS IF HE HAD SHOT HIMSELF IN THE
TEMPLE WITH THE GUN.
MOSCOW
 
 
Dr. Anatoli Nikolayev was an old man, and the summer heat was oppressive to him as he hauled his thin 0body up the dark narrow stairs. He wasn't sure that he wanted the answers that he had come here to find. Yet with everything that he'd learned so far he couldn't simply turn his back like an old lover who'd found out he'd been betrayed.
His research was almost finished. He had ground his way through a million pages of old records, starting in 1917 with the Soviet Union's first secret intelligence service, the Cheka, until the breakup under Gorbachev and the dismantling of the KGB in 1991; the kidnappings and terrorism and sabotage; poisons, electric guns, honey traps, brainwashings, intimidation of countless thousands of officials and diplomats from nearly every country in the world. And assassination. The ultimate act of the state other than war. Bodies stretching back almost ninety years; piled to the rafters; more bodies than even Hitler had been credited with, making him wonder why the Soviet Union hadn't been as reviled as the Nazis were.
His boney, blue-veined left hand trailed along the cracked plaster wall, and he could smell the terror in the stifling air like last night's cabbage dinner; urine and shit from the overflowing communal toilets; the accumulated filth of ninety years of negelect.
When the KGB came it was almost always easier to commit suicide the moment the knock came on the door than to endure what would come next. But all of that was finally coming to an end. The money to operate the vast worldwide spy network was drying up.
Sleeper agents in place for years, some of them for thirty years or more, were being cut free from funds. Forgotten about. Their original missions no longer valid. They were the unmentionables. No one at the Kremlin wanted to know about them, let alone speak their names.
That meant trouble was coming. Agents cut off with no way out became desperate men. And desperate men sometimes did horrible things.
He stopped on the third floor landing in the rundown apartment building a few blocks north of the Bolshoi Theater and stared at the small, dirty window at the end of the hall. He waited patiently to catch his breath. His longish white hair was plastered to his neck. His research was almost done and he was afraid to think about what he had uncovered. What might be about to happen. He needed names. A way to stop the madness that he had been a part of a long time ago.
Last of three doors in the corridor. He'd asked at the Pivnoy Bar around the corner on Stoleshinkov pereulok for the exact address. General Gennadi Zhuralev lived alone with his books; no friends, no lovers, no trouble except his lights, which were always on until dawn. No one had thought to ask why.
"Tall man, was he? Broad shoulders, big ears, scar on his forehead?"
"No taller than average, but he always carries a canvas satchel. Heavy. Books maybe, certainly not money."
Dr. Nikolayev tried to dredge up a personal memory of the face from his own days as a psychologist with the KGB. But he could not. Zhuralev worked for General Baranov and the crowd in Department Viktor; assassinations, executive actions, they were called; wet affairs, mokrie dela, the spilling of blood; formerly the Thirteenth Department or Line F. It was Division 17 now though no one outside the SVR's First Chief Directorate was supposed to know it. He would recognize the man's face, though, from the photographs, and his voice, which had sounded gravelly on the phone.
He walked to the last door. The building was not quite silent; a radio or television played softly in one of the apartments, and in the other it sounded as if someone was practicing on a piano, tentatively, unsure of the notes. He hesitated out of old habit to listen for trouble sounds; the snick of a pistol slide being drawn back, sirens down on the street, boots on the stairs. The light filtering through the window was pale yellow, and his eyes were drawn to it like a moth to flame. The ceiling and walls angled inward to him, crushing his breath; he longed to escape to the clean air on the street.
There was someone inside the apartment who didn't belong there. He was hearing hard-soled shoes. At the Pivnoy they laughed and said that the old man always wore his bedroom slippers outside.
Nikolayev turned and went silently to the end of the hall, where he flattened himself in the corner next to the small window in the darker shadows. He hadn't brought a pistol.
The door opened, and two men came out. They were very large, their heads were shaved and they wore shiny leather jackets despite the heat. One of them carried a canvas satchel. Nikolayev's legs felt like straw. They closed the door, turned away and headed to the stairs. He watched the doorway until they were gone and he could no longer hear them on the stairs, wondering what he would have done had they turned around and seen him.
Zhuralev was part of the Baranov crowd. If anyone had the answers it would be him. Someone who had been there, someone who knew if the bridge still existed between then and now. He waited for a long time, thinking that he could walk away. The August heat seemed even more oppressive now.
He let himself into the overstuffed two-room apartment. Books and magazines and newspapers were strewn everywhere, but not as if the place had been searched. This was the way the man lived. The rooms were like a furnace, but filled with the odors of musty books, pipe tobacco and something else. Unpleasant. The hairs on the back of his neck bristled.
He went to the bedroom door. Gennadi Zhuralev, his blood-filled eyes open, lay on his back on the bed. He was fully clothed, carpet slippers on his feet, a silenced pistol in his slack hand. It had been made to look as if he had shot himself in the temple with the gun. But suicides did not usually go to the trouble of using a silenced pistol so that their neighbors would not be disturbed by the noise.
Nikolayev was conscious of his heart arrhythmia, a fluttering in his chest that made him dizzy and empty. With a feeling of deep despair he knew that he was utterly alone. He was an old man, and he valued his peace, but at what cost, he wondered, looking at Zhuralev's body. Lie down with the lions but don't expect to remain safe forever. He couldn't make his wife understand that; she loved the perks that his KGB colonel's rank brought them; food, apartment, dacha on the Istra, a car; until she bled to death on the surgeon's table. A simple gallbladder operation. But nothing was as simple as all that, not even in Moscow.
What was it that they hoped to cover up by killing a retired KGB officer who couldn't sleep nights and who wore carpet slippers? Nikolayev tried to feel some sorrow for the man, but he could not. Zhuralev had been a murderer.
What had died with him up here under the eaves? Nikolayev thought he knew the answer now, and he was frightened. Some important Americans were going to get killed if he was right and unless he did something. He could not turn away. It was far too late for that, no matter how dearly he valued his peace.
He got in his old BMW without windshield wipers, parked around the corner, and headed toward the Lefortovo Prison on Moscow's northeast side. They had gotten to Zhuralev, and he would be next because he had tinkered with the old files. He had to move decisively now--surprise them, give them pause long enough for him to get out. But he needed the proof first; otherwise, no one in the West would believe his fantastic story. What was in the satchel they'd carried out?
He was stuck, caught between a rock and a very hard place with no simple way out. He hadn't meant to uncover the operation. Hadn't meant for that to happen at all. But now it was far too late for him to turn back. Like an insect caught in the spider's web, the more he struggled, the more terrible his situation became.
 
Copyright © 2002 by David Hagberg

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Publisher: Tor Books, 2003
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