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New from Eric Van Lustbader, the author of The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal, comes Beloved Enemy, the thrilling fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Jack McClure series.
In the stunning follow up to Father Night, Jack McClure faces a choice: help the woman he loves, or destroy her as the enemy she is.
Shortly after McClure leaves a late night meeting with Dennis Paull, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Paull is found-shot dead. The President is furious but equally frightened of a scandal, since Jack McClure is one of their own-an operative and Paull's friend. Who will protect the country if even McClure cannot be trusted?
With top officials in the CIA and FBI after him, McClure, still devastated over his friend's death, goes on the run. Someone framed him for Paull's murder, possibly to prevent him from accomplishing Paull's last request-a task vital to U.S. National Security. Someone in the intelligence community has gone rogue and is reporting to The Syrian, one of the most cruel, aggressive terrorists McClure and Paull have ever come across. McClure has been charged with securing the name of the mole, but when Paull's informant goes missing, McClure realizes his mission has only begun.
Jack may be setting off after a mole, but he knows that ultimately he will have to confront The Syrian. Which also means confronting The Syrian's lover, Annika Dementieva, the woman Jack once loved and lost.
On a quest to find the mole before cloaked agents around the world are exposed and murdered, Jack will soon find himself facing his own beloved enemy...
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ERIC VAN LUSTBADER is the author of many New York Times bestselling thrillers, including First Daughter, Last Snow, Blood Trust, and Father Night. Lustbader was chosen by Robert Ludlum's estate to continue the Jason Bourne series; his Bourne novels include The Bourne Legacy and The Bourne Betrayal. He and his wife live in New York City and on the South Fork of Long Island.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
“I CAUGHT him on the rooftop, diagonally across from the club. It was twilight, the best time, in my opinion, for sniper work, so I was lucky. I admit that. I was also pretty pissed off: a fucking sniper at my rdv. A leak somewhere, that was what I was thinking when I came at him…”
“This was in Bangkok,” Jack McClure said.
Dennis Paull, the head of homeland security, nodded. “That’s right.”
The two men were sitting in Paull’s study, secreted within his red brick, Federal-era townhouse in Georgetown. Outside, a velvet night had descended, along with a rain that pattered softly, misting the windowpanes.
Jack shifted in the leather club chair. “How long ago?”
“Legere’s rendezvous or his debriefing?”
Paull opened a dossier on the desk in front of him. It was buff-colored, with a black stripe down the left side, denoting Eyes Only status. He looked sallow and worn, his pale gray eyes lying sunken within dark circles. “The encounter occurred eight days ago. The debriefing, which was conducted by myself, a day later.”
Jack sat forward. “You conducted the debriefing alone?”
“Legere is my asset.”
“I didn’t know about him.”
Paull’s eyes flicked up to encounter Jack’s steady gaze.
“Nor did I know why you had gone to Bangkok. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“Now,” Jack said, taking a sip of his Bulleit rye, “that there’s a problem.”
Paull sat back in his swivel chair. “And you’re my problem solver.” He cocked his head. “What is it, Jack?”
“Don’t give me that.”
Jack sighed, placed the old-fashioned glass on his boss’s desk. “Ever since I got back from Sharm el-Sheikh I’ve been under the impression there’s a glass wall between us.”
“You’re wrong.” Paull took up his three fingers of bourbon, sipped it thoughtfully, then placed the glass precisely three inches to the right of the open dossier. “It wasn’t Sharm el-Sheikh; Sharm el-Sheikh is where all the debts were settled, where Alli’s past was finally healed. How is she, by the way? Adjusting to Interpol’s procedures?”
“She’s based out of Paris, but currently she’s on assignment; a back of beyond where she’s unreachable.”
“Good for her. But, Fearington being an FBI feeder academy, I had assumed she’d apply there.”
“I don’t think that was ever her intention. In any case, she needed to gain some distance from recent events.” Jack waved away the diversion. “Let’s get back to the problem at hand.”
“We are faced with several problems,” Paull interjected. “Let’s start with Rome. It’s what happened in Rome that concerns me.”
“Specifically the Syrian, or should I say Iraj Namazi, the Iranian, so you have informed me.” His gaze fell heavily on Jack. “Annika is now with Namazi, in what capacity…” He paused, thinking out the route he would take. “Now that her grandfather is dead, she’s allied herself with Namazi, isn’t that right?”
Jack nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak. His breath was hot in his throat, and his heart contracted at the reminder of Annika’s latest betrayal.
“This woman,” Paull said, “is perhaps the most dangerous female on the planet.” He reached for his bourbon, then seemed to change his mind. “This is the woman you love.”
“Loved,” Jack said, finding his voice. “Past tense.”
“Is that so?” Paull steepled his fingers, tapping the tips together ruminatively.
“It is, Dennis.”
“You can turn it on and off at will.” His tone made his skepticism clear. “You’d tell me if it were otherwise, wouldn’t you, Jack?”
“I would.” Jack nodded to the tape recorder on Paull’s desk. “Let’s get on with it.”
“We’re talking now of allegiance.” Paull turned his glass around and around on the desktop. “Speaking bluntly, my fear is that you’ll try to find her.”
“I’m your problem solver, Dennis. That’s why you hired me; that’s why I’m here.” But Jack now knew that Paull had a second agenda. In addition to being a fine administrator, he was an astute judge of human nature. Possibly the two facilities were intertwined. He knew full well how deep Jack’s love affair with Annika went. In addition, though he and Jack had never spoken of it, he suspected there was depth to Jack’s friendship with Annika’s grandfather, Dyadya Gourdjiev, murdered a year ago in Rome.
As if to prove Jack right, Paull said, “It’s not just Annika. Now that she’s shown her true colors, your relationship with her is, I think, complicated enough without members of her family further gumming up the works.”
“What works?” Jack said, a bit too sharply.
“Your thought processes.” Paull leaned forward suddenly, elbows on the desk. “Your intense loyalty is one of your strengths, Jack. But, in this case, I wonder if it might become a liability.”
“I haven’t thought about it,” Jack lied.
Under Paull’s penetrating gaze, he reached out and depressed the “play” button. Legere’s plummy voice rolled out across the wood-paneled study:
“He must have heard me because he swung the M82A3 Special Application scoped rifle right into my face—”
Jack stiffened. “That’s a U.S. Marine weapon.”
Paull nodded, silent.
“Beneath this thick bandage the wound is horrendous.”
“Legere was pointing to his cheek,” Paull said.
“I’ll need plastic surgery. I can’t go back into the field with this on my face. How would I ever melt into a crowd? It’s like a neon sign.”
Paull’s voice on the tape said, “The sniper,” guiding Legere back on track.
Legere: “Yes, well, I hope he was a better sniper than he was a hand-to-hand fighter.”
Paull: “And yet you killed him.”
Legere: “An accident. I hit him, his knees buckled, and he fell against the concrete parapet. The back of his head split open.”
Paull: “Pity he couldn’t tell you who he worked for.”
Legere: “I know who he worked for: the Syrian.”
Paull: “Have you brought me proof?”
Legere: “The sniper’s rifle. Who else but the Syrian would have access to a U.S. Marine rifle?”
Paull: “Please continue.”
Legere: “I found the sniper after twenty minutes of recon of the rdv’s immediate area. It was now one hundred hours. I went into the club.”
Legere: “WTF. It’s at Thonglor Soi 10. Very farang friendly, so I felt right at home. Lots of girls in shorts cut so high you can see the lower hemis of their ass cheeks. They’re all dancing in super high heels, though God alone knows how. Snotty kids, anyway.”
Paull: “Your contact, Legere.”
Legere: “Right. I bellied up at the far end of the neon-lit bar, just as planned. He came in several minutes later, ordered a drink, then, after checking out the nightlife, sauntered over to where I stood. We exchanged the proper parole and got right down to it.”
Paull: “What did he say?”
Legere: “You’re right. There’s a worm in the casket. The Syrian has a mole high up in the U.S. government. Very high up.”
Paull: “Which branch?”
Legere: “Well, I…”
Paull: “Out with it, damnit!”
Legere: [sighs deeply] “That’s just it. The contact’s head exploded, and I turned tail and ran.”
Paull: “You ran.”
Legere: “The place was a fucking madhouse—blood all over the bar, people screaming, vomiting at the sight of the contact’s brains and fragments of his skull bobbing in their gin blossom specials. I’d never have found the shooter, and the cops, who keep an eagle eye on these places after midnight, were already infiltrating the club floor. I did the only thing I could do: I got the hell out of there.”
Paull: “Without the name of the Syrian’s mole or where he works.”
Legere: “I fucked up. In retrospect, the sniper was a feint. The real assassin was waiting in the club. The Syrian’s as clever as a demon.”
Paull: “The question to answer now, Legere, is how your rdv was compromised. It wasn’t from this end. You and I were the only ones who knew about your assignment.”
Legere: “That means someone on the ground in Bangkok.”
Paull: “Someone you met or spoke to.”
Legere: “Boss, no one knew why I was in Bangkok. No one.”
Paull: “Clearly not true. Go back over it in your mind.”
Legere: “I’m clean, I swear. Maybe my contact said something inadvertently.”
Paull: “You were shadowing him that day. Where was he before the rdv?”
Legere: “At a massage parlor he frequents, off Phaholyothin Road, in Soi Aree.”
Paull: “That’s clear across town.”
Legere: “Which gave me the time to do my reconnoiter of the rdv site.”
Paull: “All right. What was the name of your contact?”
Legere: “Connaston. Leroy Connaston.”
Paull: “Whose idea was it to meet in Bangkok?”
Paull: “And WTF?”
Legere: “Also. He said he felt secure there, amid all the young people, all the frantic energy.”
Paull: “Maybe he had a death wish.”
Legere: “There’s another possibility.”
Paull: “Out with it.”
Legere: “The Syrian turned Connaston, promised him the world if he led him to me.”
Paull: “But it was Connaston the Syrian killed, not you.”
Legere: “The Syrian is a notorious paranoid. Would you trust a man who could be turned? Besides, he has now ID’d me. If he killed me, another agent he wouldn’t know would just follow in my footsteps.”
Paull: “The devil you know.”
Paull: “Okay, Legere, hang tight and don’t leave Bangkok. I’m going to need you again.”
Paull, reaching out, stopped the tape. He looked up at Jack. “That was the last time I—or anyone else, for that matter—had contact with Pyotr Legere. His mobile number is dead. The safe house he had been using has been cleaned out. None of my agents-in-place have been able to find him. He’s fallen off the face of the earth.” He sat back. “Which is where you come in.”
“You want me to follow in his footsteps,” Jack said.
Paull nodded. “It is imperative that we find the Syrian’s mole, Jack. Do you understand my concerns now?”
“Iraj Namazi had Dyadya Gourdjiev killed.”
“Interpol sent on the official police reports from Rome. Gourdjiev was a victim of a hit-and-run.”
“Why would you believe an Italian police report?” Jack said curtly. “Namazi killed him or ordered him killed. I want to find him, too.”
“Have you proof that the report is false?”
“I know what I know.”
“No, for you this is all emotion.” Paull’s eyes glittered in the lamplight. “This is what I’m talking about, Jack. Gourdjiev—”
“I knew Gourdjiev.”
“You thought you knew him. The man was a snake in human form. He lacked both morals and scruples.” Paull worried his lower lip with his finger. “You want to find Iraj Namazi. I’m ordering you to find Pyotr Legere and, with his help, run down Namazi’s mole.”
“I can do both.”
“God alone knows how much damage the mole has done or how much of our intentions abroad, our secret intel, Namazi possesses.”
“I wonder if you do, Jack. There is an obsessive streak in you.”
“Don’t try to fool me. The Dementieva woman has gotten under your skin. I’ll be honest. If I could find her, I’d terminate her with extreme prejudice.”
Jack sat very still, scarcely breathing.
Paull rose and, coming around from behind his desk, perched on the corner closest to where Jack sat. “I’m afraid that your obsession has blinded you as to just how dangerous Annika Dementieva is.”
Jack was silent.
Paull leaned forward, his hands clasped as if he were a priest. “If push comes to shove, Jack, would you be able to kill her, or would she kill you?”
Jack remained silent, his gaze unwavering.
Turning, Paull grabbed his drink and slowly sipped what was left of it. “You’re biting off more … you’re in danger of choking to death.”
“It’s my life, Dennis. My funeral.” He stood and held out his hand, and Paull, keeping the dossier open on his desk, handed Jack a micro SD card.
“This material is all I have, Jack. Take it in to the living room and memorize it before you leave.” He, too, stood up. “Take as long as you need.”
As he was about to enter the open doorway, Paull said, “I hope to God you’re ready for this, Jack.”
Jack turned back. “I think we both are.”
He took his drink and, slipping the SD card into his phone, went out of the study, down the darkened hallway, and stepped into the townhouse’s burnished-wood living room. The comfortable furniture was a vivid reminder of Louise, Paull’s deceased wife, who had supervised the decor. Photos and mementos of Paull’s college and service life, as well as family photos, lined the narrow shelves.
Jack chose a spot at the end of one of the plush sofas and, setting his drink down on a round end table, settled himself against the cushions and keyed on his phone, scrolling to the electronic copy of the dossier on Pyotr Legere. Apart from the written transcript of the debriefing Paull had played for him, there was some brief background on Paull’s secret contact.
At first the paragraphs looked like a school of frightened fish, swimming in all directions. This was Jack’s dyslexia at work. He took a deep breath. When he let it out, he emptied his mind of all thought, projecting himself to a spot of absolute calm just to the right of where he sat. From this place of utter peace, he looked again at the paragraphs, which now began to form into recognizable letters, chunks of letters—words—then sentences, lined up, one by one, in, neat, orderly progression.
He began to read:
Pyotr Legere grew up in Moscow, the only child of Galina Yemchevya, chief translator for the Kremlin, and Giles Legere, a trade legate for a prestigious Parisian and New York art gallery, in permanent residence in Moscow. An attached client list included everyone from the president, select Kremlin ministers, and FSB top-tier officers, to the oligarch overlords, who, in league with the Kremlin, ran the major businesses in Russia.
Jack came to a photo of Pyotr. Though black-and-white and slightly blurred, the photo revealed a darkly handsome man in his late twenties, with a long face. A distinctly Gallic nose and deep-set eyes leant him the curiously anachronistic demeanor of an eighteenth-century swashbuckler.
Pyotr owned a bookstore in central Moscow, a shop specializing in technical manuals, but occasionally he also sold paintings, doubtless left over from his father’s personal collection, though he had been seen purchasing the odd painting at auction. In addition, he operated a Web site, connected with the store, which offered specialized technical apps for mobile phones and tablets. Very cutting edge.
Jack now turned to the transcript of the debriefing. He went through it slowly and painstakingly, contrasting the words to what he had heard coming from the tape, so that he could almost taste them. He added to this the memory of Pyotr’s photo contained on the micro SD card. This image was most helpful when he came to sections he hadn’t heard. Paull had only played him the relevant parts; he absorbed the complete debriefing as it scrolled slowly across his mobile’s screen.
It was after two a.m. when he finished. Rising, he crossed the living room and went down the short hall, but when he stepped into Paull’s study his boss was nowhere to be seen and neither was the dossier, though Jack performed a thorough search. Probably Paull had gone up to bed. Shrugging, Jack went silently back through the house, letting himself out the back door. He spoke briefly with Lenny, one of the men on guard duty ...
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