Authors: S.D. Skye
The Bigot List (A J.J. McCall Novel)
The SpyCatcher Series (Book 1)
Frankie V Books
An Imprint of LadyLit Press
P.O. Box 461
Cheltenham, MD 20623
Copyright © 2015 by S.D. Skye
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
And in loving memory of
Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God. Through whatever challenges I endure, and there have been many, You keep giving me another story to tell and another day to write it. I will be forever grateful for this gift You’ve given me, and I will tell every story You put in my heart as long as I have breath to breathe.
Thank you to the men and women of the FBI who lay their lives on the line for this country every day. The United States is safer today than ever because of what you do.
Thanks to my beautiful son, William, who is always so supportive on the days I’m stuck in the writing cave. He’s the reason I live. He’s the reason I breathe. He’s the reason I am.
To my Dad, William, who brought me through one of the most difficult years of my life. Without his love and support, I couldn’t have brought J.J. McCall this far.
To my dear friends and beta readers Lisa, Carey, Becky, and Jos-Renee, thank you for suffering through my early drafts. It’s because of you that this is finally ready for prime time.
Thanks to my cousin and graphic designer RheQuan Robinson for the fantastic book cover. He nailed it on the first try. Thank you to my cousin Kim for having the good sense to marry him.
Thanks to my Facebook readers who helped name one of the series’ characters—Grayson “Six” Chance—Keleigh Crigler Hadley (Grayson), Anya Rhamnusia Guillino (Six), Jounay Thomas-Ross (Chance).
And to anyone I’ve forgotten, my apologies, but my heart says thanks!
Special Agent J.J. McCall?
I love mystery/suspense/thriller novels. Probably considered a groupie in some circles. This is despite the fact that I’ve had a 20+ year analytical career in U.S. Intelligence (over 12 of them spent in the FBI) which too often colors my view in terms of plot believability. Despite my real-world experience, I’m a pretty big fan of authors like John Le Carre, Gayle Lynds, and Daniel Silva. What I find interesting about the genre, and somewhat disappointing, is there isn’t much diversity when it comes to the main characters in spy and espionage novels. Not one prominent African American, Asian, or Hispanic main character. Yet, from my own personal experience in working at or with the major three-letter agencies, I’ve met a number of highly capable, competent (and often exceptionally performing) agents and case officers from a range of ethnicities in the intelligence, counterintelligence, and counterespionage fields.
After leaving the Bureau and pursuing my dream of becoming a writer, I eventually decided that if no one else was going to tell their stories, perhaps I should. So a little more than two years ago, I sought to write a different kind of spy novel with a different kind of character. And because of my vast experience in the field and work with so many agencies supporting a range of missions, it’s a story told from a new perspective—one based largely on the realities of counterintelligence work inside the United States.
The heroine of my series, J.J. McCall, is inspired by an African American agent with whom I periodically worked for several years. I remember first seeing her walking through the halls at FBI Headquarters. She was this short, stylish woman in a pin-sharp pantsuit. She looked about 12 years of age (and I wish that was an exaggeration). I assumed she was a new case agent working a temporary duty assignment in the espionage unit. After weeks passed, and I continued to see her, I said to myself, “She’s still here?” I later found out she’d been slotted as a supervisor in the counterespionage program. I was in disbelief, couldn’t find my jaw for days. After snapping out of the shock, I wondered what drew her to this field that was largely dominated by white males—but I never asked. I figured it was her job, and she was doing it as I was doing mine.
Eventually, we were assigned to an Intelligence Community working group together, and I got a chance to see her in action. Whoa. She had an almost innate ability to walk into a room, command it, and wade through all the white noise to cut to the core of an issue. Surprisingly, she wasn’t at all arrogant or bossy, just no-nonsense and very just-the-facts, Jack. I had no inkling of writing a series about her at the time, but the memory of her professionalism and my admiration for her stuck with me.
After writing my first two novels, the name J.J. McCall came to me one night in a random dream. I woke up and couldn’t forget it, couldn’t shake it. I knew it must be a character name, but I had no idea at that moment which character or what the book would be about. I only had a name. Days later it hit me in a flash. “That’s J.J. McCall!”
When creating the J.J. McCall character, I wanted her to be complex and layered. So, I had to create personal and professional issues that are in no way representative of the “real-life” J.J. The fact that she’s a highly functional kitchen drinker (a growing problem among women with high stress personal and professional lives) is her fictional personal issue. In terms of her professional life, I wanted to somehow infuse J.J. with the ability to cut through the BS. I wanted her to have a gift—not a superpower—but a gift. To me, the psychic thing had been done a number of times before, and I didn’t want to walk that path. So that got me to think about a different route.
Espionage, spying, and intelligence collection is all smoke and mirrors. One of the major challenges counterintelligence agents face, a significant problem, is attempting to discern the truth from lies. When an FBI Agent pitches an officer in a foreign intelligence service, and he refuses to speak with the FBI, does he really mean it? Or is he putting up a front because he’s afraid of getting caught by his counterintelligence service? When a new Russian diplomat enters the United States and claims he’s legitimate, is he “clean” or is he a spy on a mission to steal U.S. secrets? From operational covers (or legends) to targeting and recruitment, to intelligence collection, the human intelligence world is built around layers of lies. So, just imagine a character who could detect a lie in this world?
Pretty cool, right?
So now J.J. detects lies…but then I immediately wondered if I had made her job too easy. As writers, we can’t make anything easy on our characters or it’s not fun for the reader. Readers like to see characters that face challenges, characters that suffer before they succeed.
After some thought, I realized the gift was naturally self-limiting. First, J.J. couldn’t be everywhere at once or listen to every conversation. Her gift would only be useful if she was speaking to a bad guy at the time they were lying. Secondly, people lie for a multitude of reasons. In addition to attempting to deceive others, we tell lies to protect feelings. We may even lie to protect someone from harm. So, even though J.J. can tell whether someone is lying, she cannot answer the very important question of why without digging a little deeper. So this gives her an “edge” in this spooky world but limits her ability to leverage it.
A reader once made a comment something to this effect. “Well, why doesn’t she just ask people if they are the mole? Story over.”
I’d love to see J.J. walk into court and say, “Yes, lock him up. I’m a human lie detector, and he made me itch so I know he’s lying.”
That probably wouldn’t go over well…and might get her locked up with the aluminum foil hat people.
And there you have it.
I sincerely hope you enjoy J.J. McCall and the first in this five-book series which lets you follow along on her quests to find American traitors working for Russian Intelligence.
“[Swine traitors] can take their 30 pieces of silver, but it will stick in their throats.” Vladimir Putin
Monday Morning in Moscow…
hulking Mafioso known only as Mashkov hovered over Mikhail Polyakov’s mangled corpse. The ax in his massive hand dripped with the blood of a traitor. He would not live to betray his country another day. In the safe house basement of the Soltnsevskaya-owned safe house and death chamber, his remains lay on the concrete floor. A pool of crimson surrounded him, and his flesh had been gashed and hacked beyond visual recognition; death’s stench thickened the air. In order to serve its only noble purpose, his right hand, which bore a crescent-shaped birthmark, was left intact.
A sliver of light shone through an undersized window revealing the wicked grin that parted the executioner’s cigarette blackened lips. Colonel Anatoliy Golikov. A Russian intelligence officer, he was a member of a cadre of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service—SVR officers—from the First Department. His professional mission—to recruit people who sold U.S. secrets. His personal mission—to kill anyone who betrayed the Motherland.
His skinny eyes, slight frame, and borderline gaunt face colored him weak, but his iron-fisted will and suffocating persona made him a man few crossed. Even fewer had lived to brag about it if they did. The son of a former hardline KGB General who executed Russians spying for the West, he’d filled his father’s sadistic shoes well. Left nothing in his wake except a trail of dead American sins against Russia.
Golikov compelled his two most reliable henchmen to observe the murder of their comrade. The gruesome killing would serve as a message to them and make them more effective purveyors of the one they’d soon deliver to their colleagues posted at Russian embassies in the United States—spy for the Americans and your life will come to an abrupt and grim end.
Golikov circled the body at a measured pace, rage ebbing beneath his nerveless exterior. He teetered on the edge of insanity. “We should feed him to the sharks, Mashkov. A fitting end for traitorous pig, wouldn’t you say?”
Mashkov nodded as Golikov eyed his cohorts, his unnerving intensity intended to strike fear and warn. “Comrade Vasiliy, your passport is up-to-date, yes?”
Vasiliy nodded. “Mine and that of Comrade Igor.” Of the SVR counterintelligence officers working under Golikov, he’d achieved the higher rank—Captain.
“Good. Both of you are traveling to Washington. The Center has authorized funding for two temporary assignments, and they have given me the authority to recall Comrade Viktor Plotnikov.”
“Comrade Plotnikov?” Vasiliy said, his surprise obvious.
“Yes, we suspect Viktor may be providing our communications codes to the Americans. Aleksandr Dmitriyev, chief of the counterintelligence operations line, will see him to the airport. My friend here and I will interrogate him accordingly when he returns,” Golikov said, nodding to gesture Mashkov. “While I hope we’ve found the last of J.J. McCall’s traitors, I must take active measures to neutralize any that remain. You are my most reliable officers. I trust you to carry out this mission.” His gaze shifted between the two.
Vasiliy and Igor both nodded; everyone knew their respect for Golikov was born from fear rather than admiration. “For how long? My wife, she—”
“180 days minimum. But I’ll extend it as long as necessary to clean out the riff-raff,” Golikov replied, his expression affirming there would be no negotiation. “I would go myself but Washington is not the only residency with this problem.”
“Yes,” Vasiliy said. He and Igor both appeared anxious to leave. “Will that be all, Comrade Golikov? We should be getting back to the Center.”
“Not quite,” Golikov said, his every move, every expression, spilled with evil. “Please, take a seat. I need you to pay a visit to the U.S. Embassy here. We have a gift for the new Chief of Station.” He turned to the murderer for hire. “Mashkov? Will you do the honors?”
Mashkov lifted the ax blade above his head and slammed it to the ground, slashing through the wrist bone like butter, his force strong enough to sever the appendage with one blow. Igor and Vasiliy cringed and pressed their eyelids together. They turned away as Mashkov lifted the hand from the unforgiving concrete floor. He placed the appendage in a steel ice-filled box specially designed to leave its contents undetected under embassy security scrutiny. After sealing the lid, he put the container inside a slightly larger cardboard box, sealed it, and addressed it to the Moscow station chief care of the security officer.
“Deliver this to Agent McCall’s boyfriend. I’m certain he will convey the sad news of that pig Polyakov’s demise. Perhaps next time she’ll think twice about recruiting our people.
!” Golikov cursed.
• • •
Telephone rings cut through a brief silence as a herd of suit-clad diplomats shuffled through the consulate section. It was lunch time at the American Embassy in Moscow. The station security officer, Grayson “Six” Chance, glanced at his watch as his stomach rumbled. His gut told him he’d miss lunch again, and the phone rang just in time to confirm Grayson’s suspicions.
“Siiiiix,” the duty officer said, the tone in his voice teasing. Grayson’s nickname was the source of several running jokes. His IQ. The number of times it took him to pass his last lifestyle polygraph exam. The number of women he bedded the night before. But his skin was thick and his temperament easy. “We’ve got an ID on the hand. You might want to get up here,” the officer continued.
The light at the end of the tunnel dimmed. He’d planned to serve out the final two days of his sentence hunkering down in a corner and working in solitude until time to hop his flight to Dulles Airport. Golikov’s thugs had decimated his hopes.
“Give me two minutes.” Six typed the last two sentences of his final after action report. When the meeting ended, he’d let the administrative officer clean it up. After grabbing a pen and notebook, he made his way to the stairwell, preferred to take the steps up to the secure area.
His anxiety swelled with each step. He needed to tie up the last of his administrative loose ends in order to return stateside. But, in this moment, his thoughts centered on J.J. McCall. Why hadn’t he realized sooner? She meant more to him than he knew.
No woman had ever made him feel that way, simultaneous apprehension and lust. He’d built barriers to maintain his cover and conceal his heart. But J.J. cut through it all, straight to his core, his truth. She’d slipped beneath his cloak and dagger to see him for whom he really was. And she loved him in spite of it. The debacle, his sloppy exit from her life, had left a wide gulf between them. But nothing worth having was easy, and Six was up for the challenge of getting her back.
He’d become a man on a mission. He’d served his country as a clandestine case officer, then a security officer in his latter tours. Now he was just one flight away from her. For the first time in over a decade, he looked forward to returning to Langley.
Four flights of steps and a few paces through the main corridor, the one connecting the State Department’s political and economic sections to the “Company’s” section, and he had arrived at his destination. He badged into the secure space and headed for the conference room. Upon entering, his eyes locked on two reports sitting on the table in front of the seat left open for him. He turned to the duty officer, whose face wrenched in knowing discomfort. Six knew from his expression the stakes were higher than anticipated. Even the new boss had stopped by to check on the progress of the investigation.
“Six, come in and have a seat,” said Mark Levin, the new CIA Station Chief. He’d arrived three months prior and had been in crisis mode from day one.
Six gripped the chair back, pulled it from beneath the table. He positioned himself beside the station chief. The sound of shuffling papers disrupted the silence. On edge, he waited for one of them to break the bad news.
“The legat had NCIC run the prints for us,” Mark said to Six, referring to the embassy’s FBI legal attaché. “The hand belonged to Mikhail Polyakov. We’d been handling him on behalf of the Bureau since he left Washington and returned to Moscow Center last year. He was valuable, gave us information that’s still saving our asses on a number of critical operations. This is a significant loss.”
“Indeed,” Six said. He hesitated a moment before asking, “Who was the FBI case agent?”
Mark dropped his chin to his chest. “I’ll give you two guesses.”
“J. and J.”
“Do we have any idea who gave him up?”
“Same bastard who gave up her last source, I imagine,” the duty officer said to Six. “It’s clear at least one agency in the Community has a mole problem. We think he’s in the Bureau and the Bureau thinks he’s in the CIA.”
“What else is new?” Six replied, shaking his head at the silent war. It had endured between the FBI and CIA for more than six decades and intensified with each passing day. “Any possibility this is ICE Phantom?” Six asked, referring to a top secret multi-agency operation to find a rumored mole in the Intelligence Community.
Mark’s eyebrows rose. “That operation’s dead—the Russians succeeded in making us chase our tails. Ten years, millions of dollars in wasted resources. Langley hasn’t expended this much effort on a mole hunt since Angleton,” he said. Angleton ran the CIA’s decade-long Cold War mole hunt that destroyed the careers of dozens of case officers and never yielded an insider spy.
The duty officer chimed in, “There’s no proof that ICE Phantom even exists.”
“Except two dead sources,” Six replied.
sources,” Mark injected.
of which we ran on their behalf until his hand arrived in the mail yesterday,” Six countered. “ICE Phantom or not, we better figure out who the hell is responsible before Golikov sends another—and the next one could belong to the source we
Mark nodded again. Six had made his point. The most high-placed recruitment they’d ever had within the SVR ranks was in danger. At least until the FBI apprehended ICE Phantom. Losing him would cripple their operations, not only in Moscow, but around the world.
“Agreed. Time to get Langley involved. And someone will need to report this to J.J.,” Mark said as he turned to his colleague. “Six?”
He agreed to deliver the dreaded news.
Six thought to himself. J.J. would conceal her devastation well, but he knew another depression loomed. Losing her second source in as many years, her unbearable guilt for leaving another family without a father, might propel her over the edge this time. He’d warned J.J. a thousand times that her job wasn’t to care. Her job was to recruit and exploit. J.J. cared too much. Loyalty and emotion drove her business—a fatal flaw for an FBI agent. Her steadfast concern both annoyed and endeared her to him. J.J. would succumb to the sadness; she always did. But consolation was just days away. He’d resume his rightful place in her life, help her pick up the pieces—and
then make J.J. his wife.