Red Swan by P. T. Deutermann is a brilliant, provocative thriller about the contemporary war that no one sees but will shape the future of America and China (available September 5, 2017).
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Set in contemporary Washington D.C., Red Swan begins with an ominous phone call from Carson McGill, the Deputy Director of Operations in the CIA, to retired CIA officer Preston Allender. Henry Wallace is dead. A behind-the-scenes operator at the CIA, Wallace was integral to the Agency’s secret war against China’s national intelligence service, which infiltrates government and military offices, major businesses, and systems crucial to our security. Wallace had severely damaged China’s Washington spy ring with a devastating ruse, a so-called “black swan,” in which a deep-undercover female agent targeted and destroyed a key Chinese official. Now, Wallace’s mysterious death suggests that the CIA itself has been compromised and that China has someone inside the Agency.
But as Allender quietly investigates, he makes a shocking discovery that will upend the entire American intelligence apparatus. For Wallace’s black swan operation may have been turned against the CIA; a Red Swan is flying and the question is: who is she, what is her target, and where will she land?
Dr. Preston Allender examined the woman standing in front of his desk. According to her service record, she was thirty-three. Pretty, brunette, well made, and obviously fit. Her expression seemed a bit haughty, as if she was here only because she had to be. She wore a gray linen skirt and jacket over a white silk blouse. The skirt ended demurely just below her knees, and her shoes qualified as more useful than fashionable. Her hands rested on her hips and her head tilted slightly to one side. Allender continued to examine her, his gaze partially obscured by large-framed eyeglasses with smoky lenses. He waited until she gave a small sigh of impatience. He had not invited her to sit down in one of the straight-backed chairs in front of his desk.
He glanced at her file. “You’re Melanie Sloan?”
“Yes,” she said. She had the throaty voice of a smoker, or an ex-smoker. Her suit jacket was a little big for her. He wondered if she was trying to conceal the size of her breasts. It didn’t much matter—she exhibited an almost electric sex appeal, and that had been the number one criterion on his internal staffing call list. He was about to do a somewhat delicate dance here, because the operative for this particular mission might—his word—have to engage in intimate physical relations with the target of the operation. She was attractive enough, in an edgy way, but right now he had to see if she had the salt to take this on. He hoped so—her face was the closest match yet to the picture in his desk drawer.
“You’ve just finished your first overseas assignment in”—he glanced down at her record again—“Lisbon, and now you’re back for specialty training, correct?”
“Yes.” Her tone of voice indicated growing impatience, as if she were saying, If that’s my record you’re looking at, then we both know all this. Why are you wasting my time?
Good, he thought; she had a high opinion of herself, and that was going to be a vital trait. If she was the one. So: Time to confirm that.
“And you do understand that if you are approved for this mission, you might be required to consummate a physical relationship with the target individual?”
She hesitated. “I read that, yes,” she said. “But I do have standards. I’ll do that only if the target is a reasonably attractive man and not some drooling old troll with an enormous belly and bad teeth.”
Allender didn’t miss a beat. “What if the target is a woman?” he asked.
She blinked at that. “I suppose so,” she said. “Although I’m not that way.”
“I understand,” he said, closing her file. “Now: Will you please disrobe.”
“Wha-at!” she exclaimed.
“Will you please take off all of your clothes,” he said, looking up and directly into her face now.
“In your dreams, Mister Whoever-the-hell-you-are.”
“Not in my dreams, Ms. Sloan,” he said, mildly. “And besides, why not? Are you embarrassed by your body?”
“I’d be embarrassed to have some perfect stranger gawking at me like some Peeping Tom, that’s what. Any woman would. Are you nuts?” Her voice was shrill now and her hands, still planted on her hips, were balling into fists.
“But that’s just it, Ms. Sloan,” he said, keeping his tone as mild and reasonable as he could. “You’re squawking about some stranger staring at your naked body, but what you said was ‘gawking at me.’ If you can’t mentally separate your naked body from the inner you, the woman and the clandestine operative, then we can’t use you for this mission.”
She opened her mouth to reply but then closed it.
He reached for his phone, hit the intercom switch, and told his executive assistant that Ms. Sloan was leaving now.
“Wait,” she said. “I’ll do it. If that’s what I have to do, I’ll do it.”
“No, Ms. Sloan,” Allender said, with a faint smile. “I need someone a whole lot tougher than I think you are. Don’t worry—none of this will affect your performance record. I’m sure you’re an excellent operative, just like it says in your record. Thank you for coming in. Oh, and I’d appreciate it if you do not speak to anyone about your interview with me.”
A calculating look crossed her face. “I should think not,” she said. “That was a highly inappropriate request and you know it. You’re lucky I don’t file a sexual-harassment grievance against you. See how that would affect your performance record.”
He sat back in his chair and removed the smoky glasses. He saw her react to his eyes. “Do what you must, Ms. Sloan,” he said, softly. “Although you should understand that I don’t have a performance record. I’m just a consultant here.”
Carol Mann, Allender’s executive assistant and a plain, plump woman in her fifties, stepped into the office at that moment and indicated to Sloan that she could leave now. Once the obviously still upset candidate was gone, Carol stuck her head back through the door.
“Told you,” she said. “That’s five bucks.”
“It’s unseemly to gloat,” he said, reaching for his wallet.
“Put those glasses back on,” she said. “You’re disturbing my pacemaker.”
Once Carol had left, Allender leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes before remounting the smoky glasses. This was going to be harder than he’d thought. Sloan had been the single most promising of the three candidates sent over from the training directorate. He’d rejected the first two based on their records alone—competent, but lacking that certain edge Sloan exhibited. Plus, she had done exceptionally well during her basic training period and her first overseas assignment. Mark Hannigan, chief of the Lisbon station, was not known for handing out effusive praise, especially for first-timers. She had impressed him somehow; maybe it was just that sex appeal, although her personality seemed more challenging than flirtatious. That could have been nerves, he thought. Or maybe she’d figured out who was doing the interview and clutched up a little. Nothing new there.
He was thumbing through her file again, wondering how to recast the staffing call, when Carol reappeared. “May have to give you your fiver back,” she announced. “Sloan’s back in reception and wants another try.”
“Yup. Send her in?”
“Let’s wait five minutes,” he said.
“Don’t be mean,” she chided.
“I’m being me,” he said.
“Well, whoop, whoop,” she replied, dryly. “Dragon Eyes is in the building.”
He took off his glasses again and glared at her. Carol pretended to quail in terror, but then closed the door.
Preston Allender was something of a gray eminence within the Agency. A psychiatrist, he was technically assigned to the operational training directorate as a medical consultant at the rank of assistant deputy director. All candidates for the Clandestine Service went through two years of intense preparation, much of it right there at Camp Peary, known throughout the Agency as the Farm. It was located in the Tidewater area of Virginia, near Williamsburg. During the candidates’ two-year syllabus, every instructor involved in their training and qualification process carefully evaluated each candidate for weaknesses: technical incompetence, mental or emotional instability, latent psychological fears, and hidden physical limitations. And, of course, they’d been briefed to constantly probe the possibility that the candidate might already be a spy—for someone else.
In order to ensure that the instructors themselves were competent to perform this constant analysis, everyone who had material contact with CS candidates had to spend some quality time annually with Preston Allender, whose unique physical appearance and surgically incisive mind could deconstruct an individual’s psyche over the course of a single morning. “Everyone” meant just that: departmental bosses, midlevel supervisors, right down to the individual hands-on instructors, the people who taught close-contact fighting, shooting, intrusion, disguise, communications, and escape and evasion. Once a year they had to endure an office call on the man they called, well behind his back, Dragon Eyes. Allender’s brief was not so much concerned with internal Agency security as it was with each faculty member’s psychological suitability for the stressful work of shaping a clandestine operative. That skill could atrophy over time, and so the supervisory operatives who trained and evaluated the newbies were universally wary of him. Part of that wariness stemmed from Allender’s physical presence.
He was exactly six feet tall, slender, and so entirely composed that people meeting him for the first time were intimidated. He was physically fit, having adopted the habit of taking long walks after dinner each evening through the precincts of wherever his duties brought him. A long face, jet-black hair brushed straight back, a broad forehead, arching eyebrows, prominent cheekbones flanking a faintly hooked nose, and a mouth that seemed to hint at a set of steel teeth. His most striking facial feature, however, was the color of his large, deep-set, and faintly Asiatic eyes, which were bright amber, if not outright gold, with glistening, black pupils that seemed to change shape depending on the tone and tenor of the conversation. Whenever he came into a room he seemed to loom, even if he didn’t happen to be the tallest man in the room, prompting one wag to call him the Agency’s version of the specter at the feast.
Because of those golden eyes, people would literally stare at him, so long ago he’d taken to wearing large, square-framed European glasses, the kind favored by European movie directors, the lenses lightly tinted to obscure the color of his eyes. He moved through a room carefully, as if unwilling to make physical contact with anything or anyone. He was not one who shook hands; when introduced to someone else he would put his hands behind him like a solicitous undertaker, bend slightly at the waist, look down as if from a great height and just nod.
He was also the dean of the Agency’s interrogation section. Whenever the operations directorate had a seriously tough nut to crack, they summoned Allender from his Washington office to the Farm or one of the isolation centers out in the countryside around Washington. Summoning Allender was never a trivial decision. Over the years they’d learned that he would either break the subject’s resistance to sharing whatever he knew, or drive him into some kind of mental breakdown state, using techniques of spatial disorientation, those disturbing eyes, and what looked to some an awful lot like an ability to read their minds. He would have smiled at that fantasy, but he did have the ability to anticipate what the subject would say next, sometimes right down to the exact words, and when he enunciated some or all of those words just before the subject did, people watching on the monitors would become just a little bit anxious. The subject would often become very afraid.
He pressed the intercom button and said, “Okay.”
Sloan came back in and stood before his desk, looking much more composed this time, although he could see tension in every visible muscle of her body.
“You wish to start over?” he asked.
“Sir” this time, he thought; she must have figured out who I am. He took off his glasses again and saw her swallow when she saw those glowing eyes. “Very well,” he said. “Disrobe.”
She hesitated for a long moment. Then, looking straight ahead, she took a deep breath, and began unbuttoning her suit jacket. She draped that on one of the chairs and then unbuttoned her blouse, revealing a plain, unadorned bra. The blouse followed the suit coat, and the bra followed the blouse. Allender took care to stare directly into her face the entire time, forcing her to maintain eye contact though she clearly didn’t want to. No one did. She kicked off her shoes and then undid a button on the back of her skirt, slid down a small zipper, and stepped out of it, holding on to one of the chairs to keep from toppling over. Beige pantyhose and cotton hipsters remained. She paused for a moment, and then sighed. She thumbed the pantyhose and her panties down in one smooth movement. Finally, everything was off and she stood in front of him in all her glory. She didn’t seem to know what to do with her hands and arms, so she simply folded them under her breasts. Then her personality reasserted itself and she cocked her head to one side, raised her eyebrows in an expression that fairly shouted, Do you mind?
Now he did look. He examined her body, which was indeed well made. She was not quite voluptuous, but rather somewhere between the California ideal of a boy with breasts and a Modigliani nude. Her breasts were in proportion to the rest of her body, and her hips were rounded in a pleasing, promising shape. Her pubic area was whiter than the rest of her skin but not yet ready for a summer bathing suit. He kept his expression neutral during his inspection and tried to convey the impression that he was examining a side of beef. He needed the situation to be asexual. She hadn’t done any kind of a striptease, and his interest was, for the moment, entirely clinical. After a full minute of inspection, he was pleased to see that she was starting to relax just a bit. He also noticed that her nipples were erect.
“Please be seated,” he said, finally, looking away while reopening her file. She sat down in the second chair, the one without the clothes, and once again folded her arms over her chest. “Are you cold?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
“Are you embarrassed?”
“You think?” she said.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “That’s why I asked. Do you know who I am?”
“I know—I think that you…” She ran out of words, unable or unwilling to say that she’d heard of the boss with the unholy amber eyes.
“Let me tell you what I see,” he said. “A standard naked lady. A pretty if somewhat outraged face. Two breasts, one a bit larger than the other, taut abs, two thighs, two legs, a patch of hair where all that intersects, a small black mole above your navel, a brown one between your breasts, eyebrows that are naturally shaped and not altered by cosmetics, hints of gray in the roots of your hair, a small scar on your right cheekbone, two fingernails indicating that you sometimes bite your nails, a knee, your right one, which is giving you some pain, probably because your right leg is longer than your left, evidence of a recurring cold sore on your upper lip, right side, and, yes, Ms. Sloan, I think that you are just the slightest bit cold.”
“Well, shit,” she said, as bravely as she could. “That good?”
He let the hint of a smile flit across his face. “Good enough,” he said. “Now look: The point of this exercise relates to the mission. If you are selected to take this on, you are going to have to be able to divest yourself of that intimate relationship a woman has with her body and her underlying psyche. When you, the woman, are in love or even just in lust, you are ready to give yourself to your lover. By that I mean you make no distinction between self and body. In the game being contemplated, you will not ever give yourself to anyone except your controller, and there will be nothing sexual about that connection. Your body, on the other hand, may be subject to different rules, but in a way you can’t yet appreciate.”
“So we’re talking—what?” she asked “A honey-trap mission?”
“No,” he said. “If anything, it’s a no-honey trap. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
He looked over her shoulder. In deference to Company rules, Carol Mann had come in surreptitiously when the interview began and had been sitting in a chair at the back of the room throughout. “Carol,” Allender said. “Take over for a few minutes, please.”
Then he turned back to Sloan. “I’m going to step out while you get dressed. Once you’ve done that, Carol, who is my executive assistant here at the Farm, will conduct a short interview with you. She will be asking you some questions which I have prepared, and possibly some of her own.”
Sloan cocked her head to one side again and gave him an appraising look. “Why aren’t you asking them?” she said.
“Because I’ve seen you naked, Ms. Sloan, and I don’t want that fact to color your answers until I know you a lot better.”
Allender got up without another glance toward Sloan and walked out. Carol came forward from the back of the room, pretending not to notice that Sloan was sitting naked in a chair in front of her boss’s desk. Sloan turned in the chair to look up at Carol, who had a folder in her hands.
“Okay,” Sloan said. “So maybe you can tell me: What the fuck?”
“Never a dull day with Preston Allender,” Carol said. “You want to put your clothes on now, dear? And if it makes you feel any better, I was in the room the entire time that you were, um, déshabillé.”
“Oh, great,” Sloan said, hustling back into her clothes with as much grace as possible, which wasn’t much. “That’s truly comforting. Stereo voyeurs. And how many cameras, I wonder.”
Carol ignored the sarcasm, went around Allender’s desk, and sat down in his high-backed chair. “No cameras, Ms. Sloan,” she said. “And it’s Doctor Allender, not Mister. He is actually a medical doctor, and, for what it’s worth, I’m not much interested in seeing you or any other woman naked. I don’t think he is either, although no one is too sure about that.”
“What kind of medical doctor?” Sloan asked, tugging her skirt up around her hips.
“He’s a doctor of psychiatry. He also happens to be the assistant deputy director for psychological assessment for the entire Clandestine Service directorate.”
Sloan blinked. “Assistant deputy director? That’s pretty senior, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is,” Carol replied. “So you might want to rein in that ‘what the fuck’ tone of voice. You do not want to get on the wrong side of Preston Allender.”
“Oka-a-y,” Sloan said. “But you have to admit: ‘Hi, there. Nice to meet you. Strip down.’ Seriously?”
Carol sighed. “Ms. Sloan,” she said. “You’re new to this intelligence game. You’ve been through basic training and one overseas assignment. In the Agency’s view you’ve just finished your apprenticeship. I’m not privy to whatever operation Doctor Allender is staffing but I can guarantee that there will be a significant psychological dimension to it, as well as some real danger for the operative. He needs to know what you’re made of, and that doesn’t involve voyeurism. And, for what it’s worth, you do want to think long and hard about acceding to any mission Preston Allender is supporting.”
“I see,” Sloan said, visibly taken aback.
“I doubt it,” Carol replied. “Look: I’ve worked for him for fifteen years, and there are two things about him which I’ll share with you. First: People think he’s a mind reader, and while I think that’s a carnival delusion, when he trains those dragon eyes of his on you and begins to ask questions, you’re soon going to realize that he seems to know the answers right about the time you frame them in your own mind. On three occasions in the past fifteen years he’s uncovered people in the training directorate who were playing for some other team.”
“What happened to them?”
“Each one was taken to a special facility here on the Farm where Doctor Allender himself trains senior operatives to conduct interrogations. They got to spend several hours with him, one-on-one, in what’s called a ‘quiet room.’ In terms of optics, that’s a cross between a sensory-deprivation chamber and a fully staffed surgical suite. Of the three, one hanged himself rather than face Allender again. Each of the other two are currently in federal institutions with a diagnosis of profound protective catatonia.”
“Je-sus,” Sloan breathed. “How—”
“Think of him as the high priest of mind fuck in the Agency. In the entire Agency.”
“Tell you what, lady,” Sloan said. “You guys are starting to scare me.”
“Well, good,” Carol beamed. “Thought for a moment you weren’t getting it. Ready to go back to your day job? That would be my recommendation, you know.”
Sloan’s eyes narrowed. “What was the second thing?”
“Ninety-nine percent of the Agency’s missions in the world of human intelligence involve fairly straightforward tradecraft. You remember: informed patience, planning, intense attention to detail, dogged persistence, and the ability to convince people from other nations and cultures to tell us what we need to know.”
“I think I knew that,” Sloan said.
“Well, that last ‘thing’ is called recruiting, and if you can recruit, you are considered unusually valuable to the Agency. Your record says you have the makings of a recruiter, which is one factor that brought you to Doctor Allender’s attention. That and your physical appearance.”
“The world’s second-oldest profession,” Sloan said. “And the other one percent?”
“The other one percent are the intelligence games played at the nation-state level in what’s called informally the serious-shit arena, where mistakes cost agents their lives and senior Agency officials their jobs.”
“In that order?” Sloan asked. “Somehow I don’t see those as entirely equal consequences.”
Carol sighed. “They aren’t, Ms. Sloan,” she said. “We can replace inexperienced agents fairly easily.”
“Hah!” Sloan exclaimed. “Somehow I knew that, too.”
“We have four years invested in you. That’s trivial when compared to senior people with decades of experience in intelligence and counterintelligence. It’s just that the big dogs don’t take prisoners when things get dicey. It’s a pretty simple calculus. Shall we continue?”
Sloan shrugged and made a “sorry I asked” face.
“Okay,” Carol said. “Doctor Allender is not an operational player, but when he gets called into that arena, anyone working for him or under his control had better be damn good. That’s the bad news.”
“There’s good news?” Sloan asked.
“Yes,” Carol said. “For the really consequential missions, there’s a two-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar bonus for the operative. Tax-free. As long as the mission succeeds, which really means if you both succeed and survive.”
Sloan sat back in her chair and adjusted her skirt. “Well, now,” she said. “And when it’s all over, what happens then?”
“Because you will have inflicted grievous damage on our opponents, you will have to begin a new life, most probably with a new and improved face, and maybe even a new profession. You will no longer be able to assume duties as second cultural attaché at one of our embassies because there will probably be an entire foreign intelligence service looking to T-bone you with a cement truck at the nearest intersection.”
“Wow,” Sloan said, and this time the sarcasm was gone. “And if I don’t succeed?”
“You won’t care,” Carol said. “Because you won’t be with us anymore. You want time to think about this?”
“If I say yes, would that disqualify me?”
“Absolutely,” Carol said, approvingly.
Sloan obviously didn’t know what to say, or do.
“I was kidding,” Carol said. “You’d be a fool not to think and think hard about whether this is something you want to get into. As I said—you’re new. That’s an advantage. Doctor Allender likes that because his team won’t have to purge you of operational bad habits. Plus, with any luck, the opposition won’t have noticed you yet, especially in a quiet station like Lisbon.”
“May I ask who the opposition is?”
“Not yet,” Carol said.
“And how will Doctor Allender know if I’m the right candidate?”
Carol smiled. “Shrewd question,” she said. “But I have no idea. That’s his specialty. Tell me something: Why did you want to be an operative in the first place?”
Sloan sighed in frustration. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But that sort of stuff’s all in my record, from applicant to candidate to intern to first posting—what part of all that don’t you have right there in that folder?”
“The part about your weekends with Mark Hannigan, for one,” Allender said from the back of the room.
They both watched Sloan’s face go bright red. Allender came back to his desk and Carol got up to leave. “I’ll take it from here, Carol,” he said, sitting down.
Once Carol had left, he leaned back in his chair. “I called Mark. Asked him about you. He parroted the praise he’d put in your performance evaluations. I let him blather on for a full minute and then asked him if you were a good lay or a great lay. The silence on the line was palpable.”
“Oh, shit,” she whispered.
“To your credit, he finally said, ‘great’. He then asked me if he could know what had happened to you. I told him to buy his wife some flowers and to forget that I had called.”
Sloan swallowed and then looked away.
“Did you seduce him or was it the other way around?” Allender asked.
“It was sort of mutual,” she said, finally recovering her composure. “He was the station chief. The boss. I was a newbie. He took me under his wing. He was nice. He was acting as a mentor, not like a—not like a married man looking for something on the side.”
“So: Who made the first move?”
She thought about that for a moment. “You know?” she said. “I think it was just mutual. He’s an attractive man, as you must know, and I … well, strange town, new job, first real assignment … I was lonely, and hanging out in Lisbon bars was out of the question.”
“How long did it go on?”
“A few months,” she said. “Then something happened—I’m not sure what, but he told me we had to stop.”
“How’d you feel about that?”
“Just fine, actually,” she said. “I’d never expected there to be any kind of future in it. Saw lots of Portugal. It was nice, but nobody got his heart broken.”
“You don’t know that, do you,” he said.
“You mean Angela, his wife? The only thing she cares about is her show dogs. She and that bratty daughter of hers. Twenty-four seven, dogs, dogs, dogs. Training, showing, feeding, grooming, even breeding, I think.”
“What breed of dogs?”
“I don’t recall. It wasn’t something Mark wanted to talk about, ever. They seemed to lead entirely separate lives.”
“Refresh my memory—you’ve not been married, correct?”
“Marriage not for you?”
She sighed. “I’ve lived and worked in academia, the sweaty halls of Congress, and the so-very-precious world of the State Department. I didn’t see many marriages that seemed worth the candle along the way.”
“And you came to the Agency later in life than most applicants. Get bored with regular civilian life?”
“Pretty much. I started with a professional lobbying firm after getting an MA from the Fletcher School. Two years of that and I began to feel like my work was sticking to my clothes, so I moved over to State and got a staff slot in INR. Enjoyed the work and some of the people, and met several Agency staffers over the next four years.”
“Would you call yourself an adrenaline junkie?”
“No, not really,” she said, giving him what looked a lot like a challenging glare. “But I don’t mind being on the edge occasionally.”
“Did one of us recruit you or did you just apply out of the blue?”
“I met Mister McGill at a diplomatic function. He told me that with my background in congressional relations and INR I could probably get into the really interesting side of intelligence work if I cared to apply.”
Allender smiled inwardly. Carson McGill was the current deputy director for operations at the Agency, known as the DDO. Twice divorced, he was also a well-known ass bandit, which was almost comical, given what he looked like.
“There was no quid pro quo, at least not that I was aware of,” she said, mirroring his smile for just a brief moment. “Not quite my type.”
“The exception that proves the rule, I suppose,” Allender said, smoothly, declining to follow up with the question that usually followed that assertion. “You came down here from D.C., what, two weeks ago?”
“Yes. I have two weeks to go and then they’re talking language school, once my next assignment reveals itself.”
He thought for a moment, and then asked an important question. “Was your relationship with Hannigan known within the embassy? Or even just within the station?”
“I don’t think it was,” she said. “We kept it professional during the working week and at functions. Lisbon isn’t a big operation, as I’m sure you know. I went out with the assistant defense attaché a couple of times, but he was a colonel and rather too full of himself.”
“You make it sound as if your relationships run more along the lines of a sporting event than a search for a soul mate.”
She shrugged. “That’s pretty much true,” she said. “I’m not against marriage or anything, but I wasn’t cut out for the wife and kids role.”
“Very well,” Allender said. “Thank you for coming back in. I apologize, a little bit, anyway, for putting you through the disrobe routine. Your womanly attributes are vital to what’s being planned. I had to see if your interest in doing something unusual, even for us, could overcome your outrage. If we decide to bring you onboard for this operation, I promise not to embarrass you like that again. Now, having said that, I need you to have dinner with me in town tomorrow night.”
Her eyebrows rose.
“Specifically, I need you make an entrance, wearing something sexy but stylishly sophisticated. I will be at the table before you get there, and I want to see what the reaction is when you walk across the dining room. The place is called Opus Nine. The clientele is upmarket. If nothing else, I promise you a really good steak.”
She gave him an appraising look. “Will I have to disrobe?” she asked, finally, with a perfectly straight face.
“No,” he replied. “If you do the strut right, every man in the dining room will be doing that for you in his mind’s eye.” He passed across a card. “Call this number in the morning and ask for Twyla. Think of her as the Agency’s version of Angels Costumes out in Hollywood. She’ll have makeup artists, a hairstylist, and a selection of clothes that may surprise you. We’ll even provide a car and driver.”
“Is there going to be someone important there?”
“Oh, yes,” he said. He paused. “Me.”
She tried not to roll her eyes.
Copyright © 2017 P. T. Deutermann.
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P. T. Deutermann is the author of many previous novels including Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. Deutermann spent 26 years in military and government service, as a captain in the Navy and in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms-control specialist. He lives with his wife in North Carolina.