Authors: Ben Coes
Now he was back again. Everyone knew why. It had been in the news for weeks. Dewey’s fianc
e, Jessica Tanzer, the national security advisor to the president of the United States, had been killed in Argentina. Dewey had returned that fall, shell-shocked and broken. Most people assumed he’d leave after a few days, but days turned into weeks, then months, and it was then when people in Castine started to comprehend the fact that perhaps Dewey wasn’t ever leaving again. Perhaps this time, something had finally gotten to him. He’d survived the death of Robbie, then Holly, but Jessica’s killing had struck a blow that he didn’t seem to be able to recover from. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
* * *
As Doris pointed to Dewey, a cacophony of clapping and cheers came from the crowd.
“Hey, Dewey, you gonna win it this year?” yelled someone.
From the front of the pickup, Dewey turned but didn’t answer.
“Talkative as ever, eh, Dewey?” someone else yelled.
A few laughs rippled out from the crowd. Dewey glanced in the direction of the remark, remaining silent.
“Hey, Dewey, how’s that new talk show of yours coming along?” someone shouted from the back.
At this, Dewey’s lips spread into a smile. He glanced in the direction of the remark.
“I got him to smile!”
Dewey started laughing.
“I wasn’t smiling at you, Uncle Bill,” said Dewey.
“What were you smiling at, then?”
“I was thinking about the time we went duck hunting and you shot yourself in the foot.”
More laughter erupted.
“That was an accident, goddammit.”
“Sure it was,” said Dewey.
“No hurtin’ anyone if you don’t win, Dewey!” came another voice.
More laughter this time.
“Now, leave the boy alone,” said Doris, holding up her hand. “Was that Dickie? I don’t see your fat ass out there, Dickie.”
“That ain’t fat, that’s one hundred percent muscle, and stop staring at it.”
“Richard Pye, the only muscle you got left is the one you use to keep your money hidden at the bottom of those Grand Canyon pockets of yours.”
“I got five dollars right here for whoever wins this here race, Mayor,” said Pye, holding up a five-dollar bill for the crowd to see.
“Look at that,” said Doris. “Abe Lincoln is squinting because he hasn’t seen the sun in so long.”
* * *
As Dewey listened to the banter, he leaned forward, off the bumper of the truck, then walked to his niece, Reagan, who was standing next to her boyfriend.
“Can you beat her, Will?”
Will smiled and shook his head.
“No way,” he said. “She’s the fastest runner at Andover, boy or girl.”
“Prettiest too, right?” added Dewey, smiling and patting Reagan’s shoulder.
“That goes without saying,” said Will.
Reagan scowled and looked at Dewey, then her boyfriend.
“I know what you two jerks are trying to do, and it’s not going to work,” she said. “I’m not going to be distracted. Will, I will
destroy you. You’re the one I’m worried about, Uncle Dewey.”
“What’s your best mile?” asked Dewey.
“You’ll beat me,” said Dewey. “I won’t even get to State Street by four fifty-five.”
“It’s not going to work. You can’t hustle me. I see through you.”
“Then again, running in boots is a little different,” said Dewey, ignoring her. “Starts to hurt a little. It’s the skin on the back of your foot that goes first. Scrapes right off. Then comes blood. Gets a little muddy in there.”
“Ewww,” said Reagan.
“Yeah, it’s nasty,” continued Dewey. “Like pea soup. Only it ain’t pea soup, know what I mean?”
Reagan glanced down unconsciously at her feet.
“I bandaged them.”
“Oh, then you should be fine,” said Dewey. “Bandages never fall off.”
“You should also point out the extra weight, Dewey,” said Will, smiling as he pitched in. “These boots are heavy.”
“Excellent point, William,” said Dewey, nodding. “That extra weight’ll make your legs get all muscly and big, like an Amazon lady. Will, what do you think, are guys into girls with big, thick tree trunk legs these days?”
Dewey and Will were now doubled over in laughter. Reagan seethed with a mixture of anger and annoyance, though a small grin did manage to sneak through.
“Look, I usually don’t talk like this, so please forgive me in advance,” said Reagan, “but fuck off, both of you. I hope the dust I kick up will settle down by the time your lame asses come crawling along behind me.”
She stormed off, shaking her head.
Just then, Doris Russell let out a loud whistle.
“Let’s get this shindig going,” Doris said loudly. “It’s time for this race to start. I got eleven people coming for dinner and I don’t even know what the hell I’m going to make.”
“Trust me, Doris, no one comes to your house for the food,” yelled someone from the back.
“Good luck getting that lobster license, Lincoln,” said Doris, grabbing the police tape and preparing to yank it out of the way. “Now, on your mark…”
The runners crowded up toward the tape, except for Dewey, who remained a few feet behind everyone else.
“Get set…” she continued.
” came a voice from up the road. “Wait for me!”
Doris waved her arms, stopping the countdown.
Over the crest of the hill, a boy came sprinting down Main Street. He was shirtless. His face was painted black and green in some sort of hellish-looking camouflage. He wore Nantucket red cutoff shorts and was barefoot. He was holding a boot in each hand, though one was long and orange, the other short and brown.
A smile spread across Dewey’s face. He looked in Reagan’s direction. She was shaking her head.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she muttered.
The sight of thirteen-year-old Sam Andreas, charging down Main Street, elicited laughter, a few cheers, and some clapping, though most people just watched the kid in silent amusement.
He barreled down the last few yards to the starting line.
“Sorry, Aunt Doris,” said Sam, panting as he came close. He shot his older sister a demonic stare as he sat down on the curb to put on his boots. “Reagan hid my boots.”
“I did not,” said Reagan.
“Yeah, right,” he said. “Which is why I gotta wear these stupid things.”
Sam pulled a bright orange knee-high rubber boot onto his left foot. Then he pulled a worn-out L.L. Bean hunting boot onto his right foot.
“I don’t even know who these belong to, for chrissakes.”
“Watch your language, Sam,” came a voice from the crowd.
“Sorry, Grandma,” said Sam. “I didn’t know you was back there.”
back there,” corrected Margaret Andreas. “And even if I wasn’t, young man, you do not have license to use the Lord’s name in vain.”
“I know,” he said, eyeing Reagan with a huge grin on his face. “I apologize.”
Sam finished tying his boot and stood up. He ducked under the tape and walked up to Reagan. He stood in front of her. He was at least half a foot shorter than her. His blue eyes stared out from the dark camouflage.
“Good luck out there, sis,” he whispered derisively. “You’re about to learn what it feels like to lose to a thirteen-year-old wearing his grandma’s boots.”
“Actually, the Bean boot’s mine,” said Dewey.
Sam looked up. A smile creased his lips.
“Hey, Uncle Dewey,” he said, still eyeing his sister. “Thank God you’re here. I thought I wouldn’t have any competition.”
“Glad to be of service,” said Dewey as Reagan gave Sam the finger. “What’s with the makeup?”
Sam suddenly looked crestfallen.
“It’s camo,” said Sam. “I got it at the Army-Navy store in Brewer. What, you think … it doesn’t look good?”
“No, you’ll blend right in. If there are any Viet Cong in the woods, you’ll be fine.”
Doris clapped her hands, then whistled again.
“Okay, everyone, now that we seem to have the entire field of runners here, let’s get going. On your mark, get set, go!”
Doris ripped the tape down from in front of the runners and the tightly packed throng moved out, Reagan Andreas at the lead. The crowd was cheering as the runners moved up Main Street.
Dewey started in last place, at the back of the pack. He smiled at Doris as he ran by her.
“I’m rooting for you,” she said as he passed by.
As he crossed the starting line, Dewey’s eyes were drawn to the right, down a side street. Parked halfway down the block, tucked in behind a line of Subarus and pickup trucks, was a black sedan, its engine idling. A spike of warmth jabbed at the base of his spine, then shot through his body, a warmth he hadn’t felt in a long time. He scanned the sedan one extra moment, then turned back to the race.
* * *
The sedan was a heavily customized Cadillac CTS with tinted bulletproof windows, steel side paneling, an undermounted bomb plate, and low-profile steel-meshed escape tires. In the backseat sat a large, dark-haired man in a navy blue suit. On his lap were two sheets of paper. He studied the documents as he sipped from a coffee cup adorned with a red-and-yellow Tim Hortons logo.
Both documents were printed on the letterhead of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. SSCI was responsible for providing congressional oversight of the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, NSA, and an alphabet’s worth of other agencies. In this capacity, SSCI had the right to conduct whatever investigations it deemed appropriate in order to ensure the CIA was doing its job properly. The man was reading one such file: a top secret analysis of a CIA operative who some believed had gone “off the rails.” The two documents were actually different versions of the same document. One was heavily redacted; the other was the clean, unredacted version, obtained surreptitiously by the man through a contact on the staff of the committee.
Most CIA agents, when on assignment in foreign land, assumed a position at an embassy or other benign department of government, giving them official diplomatic immunity, or
thus protecting them from the harsh punishments typically handed down to captured spies. An official agent, if captured, was usually escorted to the border and kicked out of the country.
There also were those agents who ventured into enemy lands without diplomatic immunity, unprotected. It was called
If captured, these agents faced severe criminal punishment, up to and including execution. They operated alone, across enemy lines, without a safety net. Inside Langley, they were nicknamed
Officially, they were known as NOCs (pronounced “knocks”).
If infiltrated correctly, a NOC had more freedom to roam because he or she would not necessarily be on any government’s watch list, as embassy workers were. But the value in being unsuspected by enemy governments was only part of it. NOCs were the most lethal combatants America’s intelligence and military were capable of producing. NOCs were culled exclusively from CIA paramilitary, Delta, and Navy SEALs. The NOC was Langley’s most effective and most dangerous human weapon. Some had been trained to be NOCs. Others migrated there because there was nowhere else to go.
Unfortunately, NOCs were also the most likely agents to develop severe psychological problems, and when this did occur, the results were unpredictable, and sometimes catastrophic. NOCs had the highest suicide rate of any federal employees, by a wide margin. They had the second-highest divorce rate, trailing only members of Congress. Alcoholism, domestic abuse, and a variety of other lesser travails plagued NOCs. The problems tended to occur when they were nonoperational.
Much more worrisome was the threat of a NOC being recruited into an enemy intelligence service. In the past decade, it had occurred six times. In each case, Langley was faced with a hard dilemma: kill the NOC, or let him sell whatever secrets he could—usually tactical operation design parameters—to America’s enemies. In each case, the decision had been made to terminate.
The subject of the SSCI investigation was a NOC.
The man scanned the two documents for the umpteenth time, beginning with the redacted version:
U.S. SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE
Washington, D.C. 20510
****** ****** ***
******* **** *****
AS PER ASSIGNEE: US SEN. FURR
COVER BLACK WIDOW
****** *************** ************* ********
WITHOUT PROPER THERAPIST/SUBJECT COMMUNICATION, SANCTION MUST BE DEEMED INCONCLUSIVE.
DR. EDWARD HALLOWELL