Authors: Andrew Grant
ALSO BY ANDREW GRANT
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A THOMAS DUNNE BOOK FOR MINOTAUR BOOKS
An imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.
. Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Grant. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Grant, Andrew, 1968–
Die twice / Andrew Grant.—1st ed.
1. Intelligence officers—Fiction. 2. International relations—Fiction.
3. Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: May 2010
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
My sun, my moon, and my stars—only brighter and
He had two guns, as I expected. His service weapon, and a backup. A factory-fresh Beretta M9/92F, and an ancient, scratched Walther PPK. One under his left arm, the other strapped to his left ankle.
Both still in their holsters.
There’s a strict protocol for bringing the career of a fellow professional to a premature end. It demanded that I take out the Beretta. Place it in his right hand. Curl his index finger through the trigger guard. Release the safety. Discharge at least one round. Give him the final dignity of appearing to whoever found his body that he’d at least gone down fighting.
I’d always followed those rules before. With an Armenian. Two Iranians. A Peruvian. A Ukrainian. Even a Frenchman, on one bizarre occasion. But that evening, I left the guns where they were. I didn’t even loosen the straps that held them in place. I just left him lying facedown on the strip of coarse office carpet, picked up the green metal flask he’d been so desperate to take, and walked away.
He was from Royal Navy Intelligence, just like me.
The insult I’d paid him was deliberate. Calculated. Unmistakable, to anyone from our world.
And only ever paid to a traitor.
I come from a small family. My mother was an only child. My father had one sister, but they weren’t close. We didn’t see much of her even when I was a kid. Partly because she still lived in Ireland, and my parents found it a nuisance to get over there. But mostly because the two of them didn’t get on. My dad is very practical and down-to-earth. If he can’t see or touch or taste something, it doesn’t exist. My aunt was the absolute opposite. Her life was barely her own. She abdicated all personal responsibility and just drifted happily along, governed by an endless stream of signs and omens and portents and premonitions.
The premonitions in particular drove a wedge between the two of them. He thought she was some kind of crazy, half-pagan simpleton. She thought he was too stiff and stubborn to see the world in front of his nose. And so anytime the family was together, they fought. Relentlessly. Not physically, obviously. It was more subtle than that. At some point, soon after we arrived, she would announce a prediction. We would be waiting for it. He would
denounce it. Then the duel would begin. There’d be endless, pointed looks. Barbed comments. Contrived, cynical observations. The level of sarcasm would ratchet higher and higher until one was proved right and the other descended into days of impenetrable sulking.
Believe me, those visits were always fun.
My own view falls somewhere between the two. I certainly don’t believe the future is already set. We’re not helpless. Our destiny is ultimately in our own hands. But take some time to think, mix that with a little experience, and it’s not too hard to see what’s waiting around the corner.
In some circumstances, at least.
Mainly the ones involving bosses and their stupid plans.
I knew no one was following me, but I still had the cab from Midway drop me half a mile from my destination. But this was no random paranoia. Old habits die hard. The first thing you always do when you’re sent somewhere new is tap into the service grapevine. To find out how the land lies in your next city. It’s quicker and more efficient than any corporate intranet I’ve ever come across. And from what I’d been hearing about the current state of play, a little extra caution would not be out of place.
The ride in from the airport felt strangely flat. I had no idea why I’d been sent to Chicago, but that wasn’t unusual. You begin lots of assignments without the slightest clue what you’re going to be asked to do. And the way a mission looks on paper is generally a million miles from how it plays out in the field. For me, that’s part of the excitement. Like being a handed a Polaroid photograph, fresh from the camera, and watching as the image gradually takes shape on the warm, shiny paper. But the familiar feeling of promise and anticipation was completely missing that morning.
Normally I love the first glimpse of a new place, but as I watched the cityscape morphing out of the traffic haze, it left me absolutely cold. Because I knew I wasn’t going to have anything meaningful to do, there. I was just passing through. Quickly, I hoped. I should have been called straight back to London. This detour had the feeling of a wrong turn about it. The sense that the fallout from my last mission—or the debacle that followed it—had knocked me off the freeway and shunted my career onto an obscure backstreet. I needed to get back into the thick of things, to put the record straight. And to find some real work to do. Something to keep me from dwelling too long on absent friends.
My orders were simple. Report to a liaison officer called Richard Fothergill. I’d never worked with the guy, but I’d heard him talked about often enough over the years. The prospect of meeting him was the one ray of sunshine cutting through the heavy, swirling clouds that had filled the sky since dawn. And not because he was supposed to be nice. His reputation made him out to be pretty much the opposite. Which actually seemed like a good thing, that morning. Recent events had left me with no wish to add to my circle of friends.
In my profession there’s a line that’s better not crossed when it comes to building friendships. The rationale is pretty obvious. And the line is even more pronounced when it comes to closer, more personal relationships. This rule was made clear to me when I first started out, and back then I’d never have dreamed of breaking it. Assignment after assignment came and went, and I never wavered. I never came close. I never thought I would. And then, three years ago, something happened to change that. Or rather, someone. My liaison officer on a job in Madrid. Tanya Wilson. The most spectacular human who ever lived.
Tanya and I both knew the conventions. We were aware of the protocols. We’d heard all the wise words and sensible advice from
the senior ranks. But despite everything, the line that divided us evaporated before our eyes. I felt like it had never existed. Without it, we started to fall. And we’d have fallen all the way—there’s no doubt—if it hadn’t been for two things. A spell in the hospital for me. And a transfer order for her.
The hours after Tanya left turned into days and then weeks, but she was never far from my thoughts. And even after the months had become years, no one ever took her place. I often wondered whether things would be the same if our paths ever crossed again. I’d almost lost hope of that happening, though, when she did suddenly resurface. It was at the end of the case I’d just closed. And her presence showed me two things.
The flame had not burned out during our time apart.
And the line that should have separated us had been drawn for a reason.
So, with both the personal and professional sides of my life needing a shot in the arm, it’s fair to say I was looking for a short-term distraction. Richard Fothergill sounded like he could fit the bill. He was a very unusual person. Because although he worked in liaison now, he’d started his service life in the field. He’d made a transition that most observers would tell you is impossible. Which statistically, it is. I’ve checked. And from what I’ve been told, only sixteen people have ever managed it.
I figured the Hancock Center was a suitably innocuous location, so I bailed out and found a good spot, near the flags and the fountains. I paused there for five minutes, watching the shoppers and tourists and office workers bracing themselves against the wind. I waited until I was certain that no one was paying me any undue attention. Then I walked north for another block, crossed the street, and made my way back up the opposite side of Michigan Avenue.
It took me twelve minutes to reach the Wrigley Building. The
public entrance to the British Consulate is on the thirteenth floor, but I took the elevator to the fourteenth, to an office marked with our usual cover name—UK Trade & Investment. The receptionist was expecting me. She checked my ID and then came out from behind her desk and led me to a row of doors on the right of the lobby area, away from the main corridor. There were four. They looked like closets from the outside, but when she opened the nearest one I saw it led to a clear cylinder, about seven feet tall and three feet across. The segment facing me slid open, and she gestured for me to step inside. It was unusual for people to make me bother with this kind of thing, but after what had apparently happened here in the last couple of days I supposed a bit of stable-door bolting was inevitable. I complied, and immediately the curved glass slotted back into place behind me. I heard a gentle hiss and dry, bottled air swirled around me for fully twenty seconds. The sound died away. I waited while the machine sniffed for incriminating particles. Then an indicator light above my head turned from red to green and the panel ahead of me swung aside, releasing me into the narrow gray corridor on the other side.
The office I wanted was at the far end, on the left. The door was standing open, so I gave a cursory knock and stepped straight inside. The room was larger than I was expecting. Around twenty feet by thirty. Not a bad size for a liaison guy. In fact, the biggest I’d ever seen. There was a glass desk to my left, completely bare, with a high-tech chrome and black mesh chair behind it. A round glass coffee table to my right, covered with newspapers, and surrounded by four black leather chairs. A densely woven Oriental rug filling most of the floor space between the two areas. And another man, directly ahead of me on the far side of the room. He was on his feet, his back toward me, gazing out at the river from the central one of three large windows. He was around five feet eleven with thick, glossy gray hair clipped neatly above the collar of his
blue pin-striped jacket. When he turned to greet me I saw that his lined face looked somber and dignified, like a statesman or a judge. I put him in his late fifties. He was smart. Imposing. The kind of person a corporation or government department would put on TV to break the worst kind of news. The only thing that jarred was his left arm. It was in a sling. But it wasn’t the injury that struck me. I’d already heard the rumor about his recent brush with a 9 mm bullet. Fired by a fellow officer. In that very room. No. It was the material he’d used to support it that caught my eye. It was fine, blue, pin-striped wool. Exactly the same kind of cloth as his suit. A haute couture bandage. I couldn’t see this guy cutting it easily in the field, anymore. He must be spending too much time behind his desk. Or in front of a mirror.
“Commander Trevellyan?” he said, offering me his hand. “David?”
“In the flesh,” I said, as we shook.
“Delighted to meet you,” he said, taking my arm and guiding me toward the easy chairs. “Shall we sit? My name’s Fothergill, by the way. But please, call me Richard.”
“Any chance of a coffee around here, Richard?”
“I’m sure we could round some up for you,” Fothergill said. “Be pleased to. We’ve heard a lot about you. Word spreads quickly. Especially from New York. The Big Apple’s a very leaky place, you know. You should remember that. Though I doubt you’ll be rushing back there, anytime soon.”