The Devil's Light: A Novel

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9781451616811: The Devil's Light: A Novel

Now in a premium edition—a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller about an act of nuclear terrorism plotted by Al Qaeda, and the CIA officer who must find the weapon before it causes the Middle East to go up in flames.

THE DEVIL’S LIGHT tells the story of an AL Qeda operative named Amer Al Zaroor, who, on orders from Osama Bin Laden, directs the theft of a nuclear weapon from the Pakistani military, and then transports it toward its intended target, Israel. Meanwhile Bin Laden announces to the world that he will make a major terrorist strike on 9/11/10, the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Deep inside Washington, Brooke Chandler, a CIA operative whose cover was blown by an incompetent colleague in Lebanon, thinks he knows how the bomb is being moved toward its target and how to find it. First he must overcome the skepticism of the CIA and the White House, and then he must find the bomb and disable or detonate it before it causes the Middle East to go up in flames.

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About the Author:

Richard North Patterson is the author of In the Name of Honor, The Spire, Exile, and fifteen other bestselling and critically acclaimed novels. Formerly a trial lawyer, he was the SEC liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor and has served on the boards of several Washington advocacy groups. He lives in Martha's Vineyard, San Francisco, and Cabo San Lucas with his wife.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

Two years after his near-murder in Beirut, Brooke Chandler visited his mentor, Carter Grey, to contemplate his future as a spy.

Headed for Grey’s redoubt in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Brooke drove his Ferrari through the rolling Virginia countryside. The air of midafternoon felt hot and close. Timed as an escape from Washington in the steam bath of August, the trip was also a chance to see the couple who, given Brooke’s routine deception of everyone he encountered, offered him the respite of intimacy and ease. The Greys had become his shadow family.

North of Charlottesville, Brooke turned off one country road onto another that narrowed to a dirt track winding through wooded foothills, ever higher, until he reached the Greys’ retreat at the top of a ridge three thousand feet above sea level. A large wooden structure, it was the work of Grey’s hands, built before the wreckage of his body prohibited hard labor. Now it was home. Jutting from the site, its rear deck commanded a view of forested ridgelines receding in the distance, becoming shadows in a thin low fog that glimmered with reflected sunlight. This was, Grey had explained to Brooke, the fulfillment of a lifelong plan—to drink cocktails in his dotage while admiring a perfect view.

But the home was also the summation of a life. Perfectly maintained, it housed an astonishing collection of pristine guns from wars fought by nine generations of Americans—many forgotten, misconceived, or misunderstood—and carefully chosen rugs, art, and furniture from Grey’s assignments overseas. Outside were satellite dishes for the television, computer, and communications equipment through which Grey kept in touch with a world where, usually in secret, he had once maintained the power to change events.

Those times, Grey had remarked to Brooke, were defined by the Cold War and the rise of the American empire, breeding a sense of mission that, while sometimes illusory, had made the work less soul-wearing. Grey was from the Kennedy generation: gentlemen spies whose mandate had been to shape history and who, in the end, were shaped by it. In succession, he had operated in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, served as station chief in Germany at the height of the Cold War, and helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet empire by equipping a half million Afghans to fight the Red Army—while, he added ruefully, helping train the militia who formed the Taliban. Along the way he became the most decorated agent in the history of the CIA, honored as one of the fifty most important figures when the agency marked its first fifty years. But he had spent the last two decades as an administrator in Washington, barred by age and injury from fieldwork, until the toxic politics of the city had merged with debilitating pain to drive him to retirement. Now he was here.

Brooke got out of his car, savoring the crisp, cool air. At once the front door opened and Grey stepped stiffly onto the front porch. He appraised Brooke, then his expensive ride. “Still driving that toy, I see.”

“The agency promised me a life of adventure,” Brooke responded. “Now I’m reduced to dodging radar guns.”

Grey grunted, a mixture of dismissal and comprehension. Then he hobbled down the front steps, fighting the weakness in his spine to hold himself erect. His head of steel-gray hair was still full, and Grey remained handsome in a way made craggy by age and adversity—if America was replicating the fall of Rome, he had once remarked to Brooke, then he was Roman ruins. What remained young were his clear light-blue eyes and the vigor with which, as always, he embraced Brooke Chandler like a son.

They might have passed for that, Brooke knew. Once, in a moment of remembrance as Grey slept, his wife, Anne, had told Brooke that he evoked her husband before the nightmare of Iran. Brooke had seen the photographs; Carter had combined the can-do alertness of a soldier with the strong, clean features of the all-American boy. Brooke had the same blond hair, a chiseled face that suggested his heritage, and the smile of a generation raised on fluoride and orthodontia. Brooke tried to wear his handsomeness lightly; he knew that he had been born lucky. Until a decade ago, the year before he joined the agency, he had endured no real hardship or disappointment. Despite the years since, he still looked it.

The two men smiled at each other. “I’d say that you seem good,” Brooke said, “except that you’d remind me I’m a practiced liar. So how are you really?”

“Good in the morning,” Grey said matter-of-factly, “medicated by two. Given that it’s four o’clock, and I just got up from my nap, I’m trying to remember who you are.”

“Don’t worry, Carter. Anne will remind you.”

Grey laughed without humor. “Marrying me really was the devil’s pact. Twenty good years, and now she’s practicing medicine and running a retirement home.”

“She’d still make that deal,” Brooke answered. “At your worst, you’re never dull.”

As if on cue, Anne Grey appeared in the doorway. Slight, blond, and quick of movement, Anne at sixty still reminded Brooke of a hummingbird ready to take flight. Grey had met her at the agency; as with other such couples, the secret existence they led distanced them from others, but provided a depth of understanding no outsider could grasp. For years in the field Anne had weathered this life as a partner. Now, moored to Grey by history and devotion, she had taken on living in the mountains as though it were another posting. The balm for Grey’s regrets was their harmonious marriage, one Brooke had increasing trouble imagining for himself.

Skittering down the steps, Anne kissed him. “It’s so good to see you, Brooke. For both of us.”

“You, too. If your face weren’t so mobile, I’d guess you were mainlining Botox.”

She briefly smiled at Grey, including him in the badinage. “It’s the air up here. The life suits us.” Taking her husband’s arm, she shepherded him back up the steps. “We keep expecting you to bring a woman for us to meet.”

Brooke glanced at her, miming disbelief. “So you can watch me lie to her?”

Anne shot him a look of mock impatience. “Marry one of them and none of us would have to lie.”

“It’s harder than you think,” Brooke replied. “I suspect Carter married the only woman who’d have him.”

Now her expression mimed the solemnity of thought. “True. I was young and foolish then, easily distracted by sex and talk of foreign travel.”

Grey conjured up a scowl of displeasure. “You got here just in time,” he informed Brooke. “But it’s too early for a drink, and I’m still too full of morphine. Let’s attempt a walk and I’ll describe the other women in my life.”

“I already know about the one with the navel ring,” Anne replied. Kissing her husband, she added lightly, “Don’t wear Brooke out.”

Brooke heard her silent message: Don’t let him fall.

“I won’t stand for it,” he assured her.

Their rear garden, Anne’s work, bloomed with flowers and tomatoes. Grey prodded Brooke toward a walking trail beneath the shade along the ridgeline. He moved with determination, but the odd step was halting, marking back injuries and internal damage dating back to the fall of the shah over thirty years before. Risking his life, Grey had shed his cover as a diplomat to give an endangered Iranian agent—a member of the shah’s intelligence service—money and false documents to facilitate his escape. On the way back, he encountered two members of the Revolutionary Guard, their loathing of Americans fueled by fanaticism and hatred of the shah’s secret police. Mistaking the American “diplomat” for what he was—a spy—the two men decided to stomp him to death. They were well on their way when Grey located the gun in his suit coat. He killed them in an instant.

Spitting up blood, Grey crawled to his car, drove to a safe house, and slept for two days. Then he returned to the embassy, refusing to report his injury for fear of being ordered to abandon his post. When he finally endured the first of a series of operations that kept him alive, the surgeon who viewed his shattered organs and broken ribs and spine had told Anne, “This is worse than the worst car wrecks I’ve ever seen, and those patients died.”

Grey lived on, but as a different man. Years later, he could still describe to Brooke the glittering zeal in his assailants’ eyes. “That was when I realized,” he concluded, “that America as a nation had no clue about what the hell this was about. Most Americans still don’t.”

Now they paused, standing on Grey’s latest point of pride, a new bridge that crossed a rivulet still swollen with late-spring rains. Leaning on the railing, they watched the ridgelines as they softened in the light of early evening, two men at peace. At length, Grey asked, “So how is the Outfit now? For you, I mean.”

“You know how it is,” Brooke said flatly. “Maybe getting burned in Beirut wasn’t a career killer. But being chained to a desk job makes me feel like the living dead. I still perceive everything around me, but can no longer speak or move.”

His mentor glanced at him sideways. “They’re keeping you safe. Though perhaps in the minds of some, you’re serving a stretch in purgatory for the sin of being right.”

Brooke shrugged. “Better than getting killed, I’m sure. What a joke of a death that would have been, taken out by a couple of amateurs from al Qaeda because my idiot st...

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