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Memorial day, p.3
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       Memorial Day, p.3

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn

  Rapp handed Kennedy a file. "I think you're going to find this very interesting."

  Without saying a word, Kennedy took the file and sat. She undid the red string and opened the top secret folder as if she had done it thousands of times before, which she had.

  She skimmed the first page, and based on the thickness of the file said, "Why don't you take a seat?"

  "Don't feel like it." Rapp clasped his hands behind his back and flexed his knees. He was in no mood to sit. "I've got a plane waiting to take me to Kandahar."

  The director of the CIA continued reading and said, "Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself?"

  "That's what I'm paid for."

  She looked up at him over the top of her glasses and shook her head. Rapp was like a brother to her, which at times could be a problem.

  Impatiently, Rapp watched her read the hastily compiled file. His mind was already racing ahead, going over what he would need to pull off an operation of this magnitude.

  Colonel Haq had given Rapp the information he was looking for and then some. The man had proved himself a virtual fountain of intelligence, and for that reason alone he was still alive. If he continued to cooperate, Rapp would keep his promise, and the Pakistani would see his children again. Haq had turned on his fellow ISI members who were Taliban sympathizers, and he'd given them crucial information on al-Qaeda and its reconstituted leadership. But most importantly, he had given them the location of al-Qaeda's base of operations.

  In a sense, for Rapp, the planning and execution of his next step were easy. But getting permission for that next step in a town like Washington, with all of its competing interests, was a bit trickier. He usually preferred to limit involvement to the Agency and a few highly trained special forces' outfits, but this one was going to have to go all the way to the top. The operation was complicated. It involved snubbing a very important ally, and it wasn't "black," meaning the international community and the press would find out about it five minutes after it was over.

  Whether the mission was a success or a failure, Rapp and the CIA would need the cover of the Oval Office, and that meant the president would have to be brought into the loop. Rapp was woefully inept at reading the constantly shifting political landscape of Washington, but Kennedy excelled at interpreting the wants and desires of America's most insatiable egos.

  Kennedy continued to read. Rapp watched her flip through the pages in half the time it had taken him to read the report, and he'd written most of it. A near photographic memory was one of her many assets. When she finished the last page she flipped it over and closed the file.

  With a pensive look on her face she leaned back and removed her reading glasses. She glanced up at her prized recruit with a thoughtful frown, almost spoke, but then decided against it.

  Rapp, lacking his boss's well-known patience, said, "It's a no-brainer."

  She didn't answer right away. As she'd already noted, Rapp was getting ahead of himself. Kennedy was privy to the most sensitive intelligence one could imagine, yet Rapp's report was filled with details she had never seen before, and none of them was attributed to a source. There was a saying in the spy business that information was only as good as its source.

  "Where did you get this?"

  "You don't want to know," answered Rapp in a flat tone.

  Kennedy raised a questioning brow. "Is that so?"

  Rapp held his ground. He knew she would press him on this point, but for her own good he had to keep her in the dark. "Irene, trust me when I tell you this you don't want to know how I got my hands on this intel."

  Kennedy stared at him, trying to guess where he could have come up with such vital information. There were several possibilities, and they all pointed in a direction that was fraught with danger. She glanced down with the report and said, "You're convinced this is accurate?"

  "Yes. You could say I obtained it firsthand."

  She believed him, but wanted to make sure he'd thought this through all the way. "If this doesn't work, people are going to demand answers and not just the press. We're talking Congressional hearings, cameras, grandstanding politicians, careers destroyed you've seen it all before."

  "Yeah, and I'm not afraid. That's why I'm not going to tell you where or how I got this information. If they ever call me up to testify, I'll fall on my sword like a good soldier."

  Kennedy knew Rapp would never implicate her or the president, but she also knew he would never go quietly. He would be a formidable adversary for any congressman or senator who chose to lock horns with him. "Well your timing is interesting."

  "How so?"

  "There are some other things going on " She paused briefly. "Some things that have me concerned."

  "Is any of it related to this?"

  Kennedy shrugged. "I'm not sure."

  "Well," stated a sarcastic Rapp, "we sure as hell aren't going to find out sitting here." He pointed at the file and said, "That's just a start. Give me the green light and I'll tell you within seventy-two hours exactly what they're up to."

  It was a familiar refrain from the director's top counterterrorism advisor. Action! Rapp had spent twelve rough years in the field operating without official cover in some of the most inhospitable places in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Despite his relative youth, at thirty-four he was a throwback, a believer in putting boots on the ground and taking risks. That was what her job ultimately came down to-weighing the risks versus the rewards.

  "Irene," Rapp pressed, "opportunities like this don't come along very often."

  "I know."

  "Then let's do it," he pleaded.

  "And your role in this?"

  He knew where she was going, and took a half step back. "It's all right there in the report."

  "I've heard that before," Kennedy said in a cynical voice.

  "I'm going to be monitoring this thing from high in the sky. The Task Force boys will get to have all the fun. I'm just there to make sure no one screws up, and ask a few pointed questions when it's over."

  Kennedy nodded. Many of the president's fears would be allayed by Rapp's involvement. "And your wife?"

  Rapp almost told Kennedy that was none of her business, but managed to resist the impulse. "She left yesterday for her family's cabin in Wisconsin."

  "I know that, and I also know about the promises you've made her as well as the ones you've given me." Kennedy locked eyes with him to make sure there would be no misunderstanding on this point. "So no more cowboy crap this time. All right?"

  "Yes, ma'am," Rapp replied with a healthy bit of aggravation in his voice.

  Kennedy ignored his tone and his intentional use of the wordma'am. At forty-two she was only eight years older than Rapp.

  It was time to take some risks. The director of the CIA stood and grabbed the file. "You have my approval. Get moving, and please bring yourself back unscathed."

  "And the president?"

  "I'll take care of the president. Just make sure you get what we're after, and then get the hell out of there."

  * * *


  The corner office she was heading for was perhaps the most impressive in all of Washington, even more impressive than the oval-shaped one just up the street. The tall blonde walked right past two administrative assistants and the security detail and entered without asking permission. Once inside she closed the heavy wood door and approached her boss's aircraft carrier-sized desk. The woman had a definite air of confidence about her, a sense of purpose in each step. She was as aware of her surroundings as she was of herself.

  There was no middle ground for Peggy Stealey. She'd graduated from the University of Washington's Law School thirteen years ago, and she'd been fighting ever since. One case and one cause after another. Some of them she'd been less passionate about than others, but she'd given every one of them her all. Peggy Stealey hated to lose more than she liked to win, and that more than anything was the key to understanding how she ticked.

  While some me
n found her irresistible, there were perhaps an equal number who found her harsh and a bit intimidating. She was a statuesque six feet tall with the legs of an all-American 400-meter hurdler, and the cheekbones of a Nordic goddess. She tended to dress conservatively; lots of pants suits and skirts that stopped just above the knee, and she almost always wore her blond hair pulled back in a low ponytail, but when she wanted to, when she felt it would give her an advantage, she was not afraid to sex up her look. That was as far as she went, though.

  She'd slept with only one coworker since graduating from law school and that had been back in Seattle more than twelve years ago. She hated to admit it, but she'd been naďve. Only a few months out of school, she was overworked, lonely, and sleep deprived. She'd let down her guard and slept with the law firm's rising star, a partner sixteen years her senior. The affair had been torrid, some of the best sex she'd ever had, and definitely the best sex he'd ever had.

  It had ended abruptly when he'd been tagged by several of Seattle's business leaders, and the party's chief power broker, to be the next U.S. senator from the state of Washington. Her entire image of him changed almost overnight when the wimp didn't even have the guts to break it off with her himself.

  He'd scheduled a lunch with her and in his place his mother, of all people, showed up. He was married, of course, with two children. Important people had already ponied up large sums of money, the announcement had already been made, the race was underway, and the party needed to win. The old dragon had told her that she was not the first and probably wouldn't be the last woman her son would have a dalliance with. It seemed that her son, like his grandfather, which was where all the money came from, had a problem keeping his organ in his pants. The matriarch of the family had hinted at some sort of financial compensation while she picked at her salad. Peggy had dismissed the offer without hesitation. She may have been naďve at the time, but she still had her pride.

  By the time their main course was served, Peggy had recovered enough to state assuredly that she had no desire to see herself dragged down in a scandal that might ruin her career. No one, other than her son's opponent, would gain by the information being made public, so a deal of a different kind was made, a deal to ensure that Peggy Stealey's star would continue to rise.

  And it had. Still in her thirties, Stealey was now the deputy assistant attorney general in charge of counterterrorism, and she was standing before the man whose job she planned on someday having. She listened to the attorney general's phone conversation long enough to ascertain that he was talking to neither the president nor his wife, and then made a very stern gesture for him to hang up the phone.

  Attorney General Martin Stokes frowned at his subordinate, but did as she wished and cut the director of the FBI off in mid-sentence. Stokes knew Stealey well enough to know that it would not be out of character for her to reach across his desk and end the call herself. He sometimes wondered why he put up with her, but he already knew the answer. Stealey was smart and motivated, and she got things done. She'd given him great advice over the years, whether he wanted to hear it or not, and for that she was invaluable.

  Sycophants were as common in politics as lawyers, and in that sense Peggy Stealey's straightforward approach was refreshing. She was like a violent spring thunderstorm: You could see her coming, your excitement and fear growing with the anticipation of the awesome spectacle that was about to commence. If the storm blew through quickly, it was a rather enjoyable experience. The brief downpour cleaned things up and the lightning turned the grass that rich shade of green. But if it hovered or stalled, basements were flooded, trees were toppled, and personal property was damaged.

  That was Peggy Stealey. If she dispensed her insightful opinions with brevity, it could be a rather pleasant thing to experience, but if she decided to really unload, it was like a destructive storm; at some point it was a good idea to stop watching and go hide in the basement.

  Stokes put the handset back in the cradle and hoped this would be brief. Before he could ask what was on her mind, she started in.

  "This Patriot Act is afucking disaster!" She chopped her hand through the air as if she was about to cut his desk in half. "And if you're still holding on to that fantasy of yours that you're going to occupy the White House someday, you'd better get your shit together and figure out that it makes you look like a Goddamn fascist. And in case you haven't noticed, Americans don't elect fascists at least not Democratic fascists."

  There it was. She'd got it all out in one breath. On the surface he agreed with much of what she said, except the last part. With the exclusion of the nationalistic component, the Democrats had their fair share of fascist tendencies, but right now that wasn't important. Tropical storm Peggy was in his office and she looked like she could grow into a hurricane any second if he didn't do something.

  Nodding he said, "Your timing couldn't be better. I've been sweating over what's going to happen when one of these cases gets kicked up to the Supreme Court."

  "Happen?" She scoffed. "They're going to pull down our pants and spank our asses until our butt cheeks are fire engine red, and then the entire legal community is going to stand up and cheer, and then you can kiss the White House good-bye."

  She liked to beat him over the head with the White House thing. She knew it got his attention. Stokes didn't bother asking her to sit. In a calm but firm voice he asked, "What do you think we should do?"

  With that, she was off again, a six-foot-tall blond-haired, blue-eyed Teutonic goddess, karate-chopping the air with one hand and then the other, expressing herself with efficient, forceful, clipped precision. This was when she really turned him on, when his thoughts returned to having sex with her, but it was not to be. He'd made one foolish effort to try and rekindle their affair after he'd been safely elected senator. Her response had been swift and definite. She'd delivered a blow to his solar plexus that had left him curled up on the floor like an infant.

  * * *


  Dr. Irene Kennedy stood off to the side and watched as the photographers clicked away. It was a beautiful spring day in the capital. Normally she would have enjoyed the ride into the city from McLean, but not this morning. Her crack of dawn meeting with Rapp, combined with some other things she knew, had her worried. Waiting idly for the president to finish his photo op wasn't helping, but there wasn't much she could do. An antsy, stressed-out director of the CIA was not the type of thing the White House Press Corps should see.

  The official start of summer was a week away, and the president was in an extremely good mood. He was posing for a photo with WWII veterans, members of the Congressional leadership, and two of Hollywood's most influential stars. They were all gathered in the Rose Garden to kick off a week of festivities that would lead up to the dedication of the new WWII memorial on the National Mall on Saturday.

  Veterans groups had been struggling for decades to get the monument built, and they'd had almost no success until the big hitters from Hollywood had gotten on board. With star power attached to the cause, the politicians in D.C. lined up to get on board, and now they were marching in a very patriotic lockstep toward the dedication ceremony.

  The cheerful weather and festive mood only served to heighten Kennedy's sense of foreboding. As the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Kennedy was always privy to information that made it difficult for her to take a joyous outlook on life. And now something was about to happen, and she and her people didn't have a clue as to what it was. The warning bells started to go off on Friday of the previous week. At first there was a spike in phone and e-mail intercepts hinting that something big was in the works, and then there were some strange trends in the financial and currency markets, and then Rapp showed up in her office confirming her worst fears-that al-Qaeda had something in the works. Something that involved a bomb. How big a bomb they didn't know, but they needed to find out quick.

  Kennedy had been tracking terrorists for over twenty years. She had developed a sense for w
hen things were about to happen, and this was one of those times. It had been too quiet for the last six months. The remnants of al-Qaeda had been regrouping and were on the move. What they were up to specifically, Kennedy did not know, but she feared the worst. Her team needed more to go on and they needed it quick, or she and the rest of the country would find out the hard way.

  The director of the CIA checked her watch and kept her composure. The photo op was already fifteen minutes over schedule, and although Kennedy didn't show it, her nerves were frayed. If her deepest fears were true, they needed to move quickly. More than anything, though, they needed additional information and a lucky break, and they weren't going to get either sitting in Washington collecting satellite intercepts. She needed to get the president alone so he could sign off on Rapp's plan and get the Pentagon involved.

  Kennedy relaxed slightly as the president's press secretary stepped in and told the photographers that the event was over. She stood patiently while the president shook some hands and thanked everybody for coming out. Like almost all politicians at this level President Hayes was very good at making people feel appreciated. He laughed, slapped a few shoulders, and then waved good-bye as he walked up the lawn toward the Oval Office.

  As he approached Kennedy his expression turned a bit more serious. Not wanting to discuss anything outside, he simply said, "Aren't you a little early this morning, Irene?"

  "Yes, sir."

  Hayes frowned. He doubted she was here to report good news. He continued up the slight slope and waved for her to join him.

  Kennedy hesitated for a second and looked past the president in search of his chief of staff. She was pleased to see her hanging back in order to bask a while longer in the aura of two Hollywood big hitters. Valerie Jones and Rapp couldn't stand each other. Kennedy had little doubt that, given the opportunity, Jones would use every ounce of influence to dissuade her boss from signing off on the operative's aggressive plan.

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