Flash Points by David Hagberg is the 22nd book in the Kirk McGarvey series—an action-packed thriller about a plot to lead a president towards impeachment (available March 27, 2018).
Retired CIA assassin Kirk McGarvey is taking a much needed break. Then a bomb in his car explodes just as he's leaving the vehicle. He barely escapes with his life.
The men who went after McGarvey are also after the President of the United States. A controversial candidate, he has just won a heated, heavily contested presidential election. Now his enemies are determined to push him out of office. These men hire a contractor to set up three terrorist assaults in the US as well as other attacks around the globe in hopes of driving him from office. These strikes are at flash points so critical they could incite all-out nuclear war.
But the president’s enemies have not reckoned on Kirk McGarvey. He has survived their attempt on his life, and he is determined to hunt them down and stop them at all costs.
They made a mistake in going after the CIA’s #1 assassin.
It was early March but summer had already arrived in southern Florida, and except for a pleasant breeze off Sarasota Bay, the afternoon would have been overly hot for Kirk McGarvey and the eight philosophy students seated in front of him on the grass.
McGarvey, Mac to his friends, had been the youngest director ever of the Central Intelligence Agency—a job he had detested because he was no administrator. Since then he’d taken on a variety of freelance assignments for the Company, all of which had been too urgent or simply impossible for the government to handle on its own.
In between times he taught philosophy for one dollar per year at Sarasota’s New College, a semi-private ultra-liberal and prestigious small college. His specialty was Voltaire, the eighteenth-century intellectual and wit, who’d maintained that common sense wasn’t so common after all.
Slightly under six feet with the build of a rugby player and the grace of a ballet dancer, Mac was a man around fifty, with eyes that were sometimes green, or gray, like now, when he felt something or someone was gaining on him.
“How many of you know the name O. J. Simpson?” he asked.
One of the boys said, “He’s the one who killed his girlfriend and some guy.”
“His ex-wife and her lover,” one of the other students said.
“He was acquitted,” McGarvey said. His own philosophy had always been if you throw a stick into a pack of dogs, the one that barks got hit. His students over the past three years knew that they were being manipulated, but they loved it, because of the sometimes intense discussions that usually followed.
“Yes, but he did it.”
One of the girls laughed. “You’ve been hoisted on your own petard, Mac,” she said. “Voltaire, and I quote: ‘It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.’”
“Nice try, Darlene, but it’s you who’ve been had, unless you don’t believe in the basic premise of American jurisprudence.”
Someone groaned. “Presumed innocent until proven guilty. But this is a course on Voltaire. Not fair.”
McGarvey chuckled. A distant buzzer sounded, which marked the end of this period. “Five hundred words by Monday on what Voltaire would have thought about the trial. Arguments for why he would believe that O. J. was guilty and for why he would believe the man was innocent.”
A forty-foot sloop out on the bay was heading south, probably for New Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. She was low on her lines, her dinghy was stowed and she had a wind vane for self-steering on the stern. A small, well-provisioned ship heading for happy places.
It was the last class on Friday, and his students, who often hung around to talk, took off. All across the small campus kids and instructors alike were heading out. Everyone here worked hard but played hard too.
His phone rang. It was Pete calling from his house on Casey Key, a barrier island a few miles south. She’d come down from Washington to spend a few days with him, as she’d been doing from time to time over the past year or so.
At one time she’d been an interrogator for the Company, but she’d fallen into helping McGarvey with an assignment that had started to go bad. And since then she’d been his unofficial partner, and a damned good operator in her own right. On top of all that she was in love with him, and he with her.
“How’d your day go?” she asked. She was nearly fifteen years younger than him, and in her interrogator days when she always worked with a male partner, the agency wags had labeled her and whoever her partner might be Beauty and the Beast. She was shorter than Mac, with the voluptuous figure of a movie star and a pretty oval face, and had become a crack shot with just about any variety of pistol.
“Good,” he said automatically. But something had been nagging at him for the past week or so, and for some reason especially today. In his career, mostly as a shooter for the CIA, he’d had a chance to make a lot of enemies. From time to time one of them came gunning for him.
It had happened before, and he’d been getting the feeling that someone was nearby, watching him, tracking his routines, coming up on his six.
“I can drive up and meet you someplace for an early supper.”
He wanted to say no. He wanted her out of the way, for the simple reason he was afraid for her safety. Every woman in his life—including his wife and daughter—had been assassinated because of who he was and what he did. And he was in love with her—against his will—and that frightened him even more.
“Marina Jack, outside,” he said. The marina and restaurant on the bay just south of the Ringling Bridge was popular with the locals as well as tourists. It was almost always busy, and just now if Pete was going to be at his side, he wanted to be surrounded with people.
“Half hour,” she said.
“See you there,” McGarvey said, and as he headed back to his office he phoned his old friend Otto Rencke, who was the director of special projects for the CIA and the resident computer genius on campus there. He and Mac had a long history.
“You’re done teaching for the day,” Otto said without preamble. “You and Pete are meeting somewhere for a drink and something to eat.”
“Right and right. Have your darlings been picking up on anything interesting lately?”
Otto’s darlings were actually search engines a quantum leap even above Google, which sampled just about every known intelligence source on the entire planet, looking for threats to the U.S., especially to the CIA.
“Lotsa shit going down, but no nine/elevens just now. You getting premos?”
What Otto called “premos” were McGarvey’s premonitions. He and just about everyone else on campus respected Mac’s premos.
“Just around the edges.”
“I’ll call you back in a couple of minutes.”
“Good enough,” McGarvey said.
* * *
His tiny book-lined office was on the second floor of the philosophy department, already all but deserted for the weekend, one small window looking out across the campus toward the bay. The sailboat was approaching the buoy in the Intracoastal Waterway, which led out to the Gulf through New Pass.
He watched it for several moments, thinking about his wife, Katy. They had taken several trips from Casey Key on their Whitby 42 center cockpit ketch, twice out to the Abacos in the Bahamas. Good times, in sharp contrast to the sometimes almost impossibly bad times in his career and life. He’d been behind the limo in which his wife and their daughter were riding in when it exploded.
It was a memory permanently etched in his brain.
He took his Walther PPK in the 7.65mm version, his spare pistol, and an old friend, out of his desk and put it in his pocket. At that moment he thought it was important, though he couldn’t say why.
Downstairs he nodded to a couple of instructors, but they didn’t acknowledge him. He was wealthy by most standards, teaching for free, while they were scraping by on small salaries, and to hear them talk, busting their humps. In their view he was a dilettante, whose grades were always way too high on the curve.
Pete had sounded upbeat, looking forward to the weekend. She was leaving Sunday evening to return to Langley, where she was involved with training a half-dozen senior interrogators. The only complaints about her, so far as Otto had heard, came from the suits on the seventh floor who thought her methods had become overly aggressive in the past year or so. McGarvey had rubbed off on her.
Otto had sounded good too. Much happier now than in the old days because he was married to Louise, a woman nearly as smart as he was, and for whom he had an immense respect, and because of their adopted three-year-old daughter, Audie, who was Mac’s daughter’s only child.
The soft top on his ’56 Porsche Speedster was down, the red-leather driver and passenger seat backs moved forward because of the sun. The car was one of his only indulgences—other than the Whitby. He had bought it totally restored two years ago for around fifty times the price when it had been new.
Maybe not a dilettante, he thought, getting in and starting the engine, and certainly not a billionaire like some he knew, but well off enough so that he could afford the toy, as Pete called it.
“You have the time in grade, and you deserve it,” she’d said.
Something was wrong. Desperately wrong. A smell, a noise, something.
McGarvey looked for a shooter, for the glint of a gun scope lens on the rooftops across the street.
A car with tinted windows nearby.
Someone who obviously didn’t belong on the school’s campus walking away with a purpose.
A drone somewhere above.
Not bothering with the ignition key, he clambered over the door and got two feet away from the car when an impossibly bright flash enveloped him.
And then nothing.
Copyright © 2018 David Hagberg.
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David Hagberg is a former Air Force cryptographer who has traveled extensively in Europe, the Arctic, and the Caribbean, and has spoken at CIA functions. He has published more than seventy novels of suspense, including Tower Down, End Game, The Fourth Horseman, and the bestselling Allah's Scorpion, Dance with the Dragon, and The Expediter. He makes his home in Sarasota, Florida.