Thu
Jun 15 2017 9:00am

Ben Coes Excerpt: Trap the Devil

Ben Coes

Trap the Devil by Ben CoesTrap the Devil by Ben Coes is the 7th book in the Dewey Andreas series (available June 20, 2017).

A group of some of the most powerful people in the government, the military, and the private sector has begun a brutal plan to quietly take over the reins of the U.S. government. They’ve begun to remove the people who stand in their way—and replace them with their own sympathizers and puppets. They’ve already taken out the Speaker of the House—whose death was made to look like an accidental drowning—and the president and vice president are next. Once they have their own people in place, they plan to start a bloody, brutal war on an unimaginable scale.

On restricted duty while he recovers from injuries incurred on a previous mission, Dewey Andreas is sent to Paris by CIA Director Hector Calibrisi. The Secretary of State is going there for secret talks, and Dewey is to be an extra layer of security above the State Department team. But what should be an easy mission couldn’t go more wrong. The cabal has sent in a hit man to take out the Secretary of State and lay the blame for this murder at the feet of Dewey himself.

With the Secretary of State dead, shot by Dewey’s weapon, Dewey is on the run and out in the cold, desperately trying to unravel the plot before the conspirators succeed in killing millions of innocents.

1

YATES FIELD HOUSE
GEORGETOWN
WASHINGTON, D.C.
TODAY

Dewey Andreas was lying on his back. He stared up at the long steel bar above him, his hands holding it loosely. Attached to each end of the bar were two fifty-pound barbells, two hundred pounds in all. With the bar itself, he was looking at a two-hundred-and-thirty-pound lift.

“You sure you should be doing this?” asked Rob Tacoma, who was standing behind Dewey, ready to spot him. “You’re not supposed to do any heavy lifting. That’s what Hector told me.”

Dewey leaned his head back and looked upside down at Tacoma, shooting him an icy stare.

“From this angle it looks like you were just smiling at me,” said Tacoma.

“You mind shutting the hell up?”

Dewey clenched his hands a little tighter around the bar. He took several deep breaths. He pushed up on the steel bar; it moved with a slight wobble up into the air, his arms straightening. The pain in his right shoulder went from a dull ache to electric, like a sharp object was inside. He grunted as he slowly lowered the bar to his chest, pausing a half second, then pushed it back up.

“Not bad,” said Tacoma absentmindedly as Dewey struggled to push the weight up again. “You’re using your legs too much, though.”

After several wavering seconds, Dewey’s arms were straight above his head. He locked his elbows and breathed rapidly. The pain in his shoulder was intense. Yet as much as it told him to stop, he knew he needed to keep going. He had a hundred pounds to go until he was back to the strength level before Sirhan el-Khan stabbed him in the shoulder.

“Please, Rob, shut the fuck up,” Dewey groaned.

Tacoma smiled.

Dewey was the only individual who made him understand what it was like to have an older brother. There was no question who was in charge, but that was the way he wanted it, the way he liked it. Sure, there had been other mentors in his life: upperclassmen on the UVA lacrosse team; older SEALs who took him under their wing; after the Navy, other agents within Special Operations Group who helped him out, who showed Tacoma a trick or two. But Dewey was different. He was the only operator Tacoma had ever met whom he knew he could not defeat in battle, unless luck was involved. He was the only man who’d ever made him wish he had an older brother.

The last month had been a blast. Katie was off in Rwanda, spending six weeks volunteering along with a group of six other CIA agents, working to create a more secure route for food shipments into the region. Katie was his business partner, and her hiatus had given Tacoma time to hang out and help Dewey recover from the nearly fatal knife wound.

Dewey enjoyed it too. The problem was, at certain times Tacoma acted like that little brother Dewey never had. Little brothers sometimes couldn’t resist the temptation to make things difficult for their older brothers.

Dewey let his arms bend and lowered the barbell, where it touched his chest, harder this time, slamming against his breastplate. He pushed up, grunting loudly, the entire barbell wobbling as if it might at any moment drop like a ton of bricks on top of him.

“Have you ever considered getting a llama, Dewey?” asked Tacoma. “I hear they make great pets.”

Dewey’s face suddenly contorted as he tried not to laugh, but it was no use. The barbell dropped as his arms went weak. It sank rapidly. Just as it was about to land on his chest, Tacoma leaned down and grabbed it. With relative ease, he lifted it and set it back on the brackets.

Dewey’s eyes were closed, his face was bright red, and he fought to catch his breath. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at Tacoma.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?”

Dewey sat up, still trying to catch his breath. He clutched his shoulder.

Tacoma eyed Dewey warily. “Sorry.”

“I’m hitting the showers.”

“Want me to wait?”

“No.”

“Well, actually, Hector wanted me to wait and make sure you went to that appointment.”

Dewey glared at Tacoma. “Oh he did, did he?” he snapped.

Tacoma’s eyes took on a slight edge, an edge Dewey knew all too well. Beneath Tacoma’s disheveled frat boy exterior lurked an altogether different person: an ex–Navy SEAL with martial and paramilitary skills that were rare; a cold, deadly serious, brutally tough individual who’d twice saved Dewey’s life.

“Yeah, he did. I’m just the messenger.”
 

2

INDIAN PURCHASE FARM
POOLESVILLE, MARYLAND

Bruner’s pants were wet with dew as he moved along a footpath that crossed the twenty-acre field near his home. He watched a flock of Canada geese cut across the blue sky, flying in a near perfect triangle to the south. He stopped walking several hundred feet away from the main house. In the morning light, the rambling, meticulous mansion looked ageless, as pretty as it probably had looked when it was built in 1820. He knew that someday photos of it would be in history books.

There were many reasons Bruner had chosen the path he was now on.

The fields leading up to the home spread in a wheat-colored swath, the long grass fluttering as a slow wind came from the west. Winter was almost here; the field would need to be cut soon. A white horse fence demarcated the boundary between high grass and lawn.

Bruner had on thick but worn Filson tin pants, handed down by his father. If Bruner had had a son, they would have become his. He thought about that son he never had, especially at times like now. He thought about the grandson that his son would have given him. Would he have been out here this day with him? Would he have been standing right beside him at this moment? Would his grandson be to his left, pushing through the high grass with the dogs scampering ahead, a wild smile on his face as he learned the raw joys of nature and the physical world, grass and brambles, soil, streams, rainstorms, and the sun?

Then he thought about the daughter he did have, the daughter he lost so long ago.

Bruner shut his eyes. He squeezed the brow of his nose.

“Don’t think about her,” he whispered aloud.

Everything I do is for you, sweet Molly. You will see what a father will do to avenge the death of a daughter. The world will see.

The large circular driveway in front of the house was lined with automobiles.

Bruner glanced at his yellow Lab, Ranger, who was standing still, tongue out, panting, looking at Bruner. His expression was a combination of delight after a morning’s hard run and the anticipation of a meal.

“Are you ready for breakfast?” asked Bruner, kneeling slightly and reaching out both hands to touch the dog. Ranger wagged his tail.

*   *   *

Several minutes later, Bruner followed Ranger inside the house. He heard conversation coming from the den and walked toward the room, pausing just outside, where a servant stood behind a table. On the table was a silver coffee service.

“Hi, Abe.”

“Good morning, sir.”

He handed Bruner a cup of coffee.

Bruner stepped into the room. He stood near the double doors, casting his eyes around the vast space. A fire was burning in the hearth. The walls were covered in bookshelves. In front of the bookshelves were fifteen large, deep, comfortable chintz-upholstered armchairs. Closer to the center of the room were three big, old green leather chesterfield sofas. Every seat was occupied.

The voices went silent. Bruner took a sip of coffee as he scanned the men’s eyes. He stepped to the large stone fireplace and placed his cup on the mantel.

Gathered before him were the chosen few. Each man had been carefully selected, vetted, approached, and ultimately brought into Bruner’s inner sanctum. All had sworn allegiance. Before him sat two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, three cabinet secretaries, and more than two dozen high-ranking officials inside the administration of President J. P. Dellenbaugh. But they all shared a secret loyalty, a darker allegiance: to Bruner and, more important, to Bruner’s America, a country they all believed needed to reassert its utter strength and supremacy across the globe. This was the shadow government, painstakingly assembled over more than two decades—and now ready for its bloody harvest.

“The time has come,” Bruner announced. “Today, we begin the process of saving the United States of America.”
 

3

MAYEWELL HUNTING CAMPS
OSSABAW ISLAND, GEORGIA

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Lowell Benson Trappe Jr., climbed out of a mud-covered silver Ford F-250 pickup truck and scanned the gray horizon above the ocean. It was 5:10 A.M.

Trappe was dressed in hunting apparel. It was well worn and fit the way it was meant to; a Filson coat that had been his father’s, thigh-high L.L. Bean boots, canvas pants from Carhartt. At six foot tall and two hundred sixty pounds, Trappe was on the heavy side. He looked older than his fifty-six years, though his hair remained thick and brown and his face ruddy and wrinkled with character. He’d been a member of the House of Representatives since age twenty-five and was elected Speaker at forty. His salary was $223,500 a year, but Trappe, like all Speakers, lived like a king.

The three-day duck-hunting trip to Ossabaw Island was a typically high-end respite from the Capitol. The private lodge was small but lavish in its own way, a camp of sequestered log cabins with bold ocean views, room service, and even a nightly tuck-down by maids who were known to spend more than a few minutes with the guests. This was Trappe’s eleventh visit to Ossabaw, and every time it seemed to get better. The ducks were more abundant, the food more delicious, the women more beautiful. It was a trip not even a billionaire could arrange. It was the reward for being Speaker. The fact that the camp was owned by Georgia’s largest electric utility was inconsequential. Trappe had backed them and opposed them so many times over the years it was hard to keep track. Pundits and idiots said that money could buy influence, but in Trappe’s case it wasn’t true. Trappe knew that a politician who allowed his or her decisions to be purchased by the highest bidder was, in fact, of little use to most special interests seeking assistance. What money did buy when it came to Lowell Trappe was honesty and a straightforward, no-bullshit way. People, companies, other politicians, reporters—they all knew where Lowell Trappe stood and they knew why.

The utility’s chief lobbyist, Will Scranton, climbed out of the other side of the truck. Like Trappe, Scranton looked at home in his hunting apparel. He stood by the truck, staring off to the shoreline, a cup of coffee in one hand. He lit a cigarette. After a couple of drags, he pointed the cigarette to the shore.

“Looks like Schaller’s Bluff’ll be good,” Scranton said in his deep western Georgia drawl. “Surf ain’t too high this morning, Mr. Speaker.”

Trappe nodded. “You got better eyes than me, Will.”

“I know how much you like to shoot from there, Mr. Speaker.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true, isn’t it?”

They pulled a pair of duffels out of the pickup.

Two dog crates were also there, each containing a white Labrador retriever. The dogs stood at attention, barely making any noise, though their excitement was obvious by the whack whack whack of their tails swinging against the crates.

“So what do you think?” said Trappe, sipping from a stainless steel coffee cup.

“It’s early,” he said.

“You’re the one who wanted to get up at four.”

“I mean it’s early in the season. It’s been warm up north. I’m not sure what we’re gonna see, Mr. Speaker.”

Trappe smiled and put his hand on Scranton’s back.

“That’s why I like you, Will. You’re just who you are. You don’t shine people on.”

“Thanks, sir, I try not to. But that being said, we might get lucky. My father put down seven last week over there.” He pointed. “You’re a pretty good shot. I mean what the hell, even if we don’t get anything, it’s not like we’re up in Washington, right?”

Trappe laughed. He reached to his pocket and took out a copper flask. He unscrewed it and offered it to Scranton.

“Mornin’, Mr. Beam,” Scranton said to the flask. He raised it to his lips and took a big gulp, then hissed as he swallowed.

Ah-oooh-ga!” he yelped.

Trappe smiled and took the flask back. He downed a large chug.

“So, any things you guys need up there?” Trappe said. “Been here two days and you ain’t said shit ’bout nothin’. What do you got?”

Scranton took the flask and threw back one more.

“No, sir,” he said, shrugging. “Session’s almost done and we got pretty much what we wanted, which was to be left the hell alone. Besides, let’s not ruin a good hunting trip with that stuff. We know you got our back, Lowell.”

Scranton let the two dogs out of the crates.

They walked for about a quarter mile along a dirt path that led to the rocky shore, the dogs trotting along behind them, scouring the horizon. Finally, the path opened up to a crescent-shaped inlet, a rough, pretty stretch of coastline, a black sea with flecks of foamy white. In the distance, an orange hue was visible at the horizon as sunrise approached.

“You take the bluff,” said Scranton, pointing to the small inlet, a magnet for birds. “I’ll go up to Widener’s. I’ll see y’all at breakfast round eight.”

Trappe nodded. “Sounds good.”

Scranton whistled twice. One of the dogs leapt toward him as the other moved to Trappe’s side.

“Good girls,” said Trappe.

Trappe walked the final hundred yards to the water, setting his shotgun on a rock. He took a sip of coffee, then one more swig of bourbon. He picked up his shotgun, plopped a shell in each barrel, slammed the gun shut. He moved to a low, flat rock at water’s edge. In the water directly in front of him was a latticework of reeds. Even if he’d been a trained operative, he probably would not have noticed that one of the reeds was not a reed at all.

*   *   *

The frogman was beneath the surface of the water. He’d been there since midnight.

The killer had spent two days studying the hunt from a rise to the east, up the coast. He’d assumed the other man, Scranton, would give the Speaker the best hunting spot on this, their final day on the island.

Two devices stuck up from below: a breathing apparatus, like a straw, and a pencil-size camera. Both blended into the reeds.

He watched Trappe step down along the craggy waterline. He also observed the dog. He would not have been surprised if the dog picked up his scent through the oxygen tube. Dogs were remarkable. He didn’t need or want the dog alerting Trappe that something was amiss. He reached to his wrist and pressed a small button, shutting off the tube, initiating a closed-loop oxygen system that would enable him to breathe underwater for a time. Not long, perhaps ten minutes, but that would be more than enough time.

The dog’s eyes darted about wildly.

*   *   *

“What is it, Bodie?” Trappe said to the agitated dog. “You excited?”

Trappe saw the ducks cutting like a shadow across the eastern sky. They were disorganized, mainly because there were so many of them. His heart raced. He raised his shotgun.

But before he could fire, his left boot slipped off the rock. He dropped the shotgun into the water, scrambling to catch himself before he fell, but what he thought was a slippery patch of rock was, in fact, a pair of gloved hands, grabbing his ankle and pulling him below the ocean’s surface.

Beneath the water, Trappe opened his eyes, looking for something to grab on to. Instead, he found himself staring straight into the black tint of a scuba glass.

Trappe swung at the dark figure, grazing his chin with a slow-moving punch, which did little to the frogman, who clutched Trappe with viselike hands below the water. Trappe struggled, kicking with his free foot, but it was futile. The diver was too strong. Trappe screamed, even though he knew he couldn’t be heard. He made a final, desperate lunge for the frogman’s mask, trying to pull it aside, but the killer knocked his arm away. A few seconds later, Trappe had no choice; he needed oxygen. He inhaled. A deluge of water poured down his throat and into his lungs, drowning him.

The diver eased his hands from Trappe’s ankle and let the corpse float slowly toward the surface. He watched for a few extra moments and then swam quietly away, the only sounds that of a barking dog and the patter of small waves slapping against the rocks.

 

Copyright © 2017 Ben Coes

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Ben Coes is the author of the critically acclaimed Power Down and Coup d’Etat. He is a former speechwriter for the George H .W. Bush White House, worked for Boone Pickens, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard, a campaign manager for Mitt Romney’s run for governor in 2002, and is currently a partner in a private equity company out of Boston. He lives in Wellesley, Mass.

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