Ghost Force, by Robinson, Patrick
- ISBN: 9780061120732 | 0061120731
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 1/5/2007
0830, Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Lt. Commander Jimmy Ramshawe, assistant to the Director of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland, had both his feet and his antennae up. Lounging back in his swivel chair, shoes on the desk, he was staring at an item on the front page of the Washington Post.
TOP RUSSIAN OFFICIAL
DROPS DEAD IN WHITE HOUSE
Siberian political chief
suffers fatal heart attack
"Poor bastard," muttered the American-born but Australian-sounding Intelligence officer. "That's a hell of a way to go -- in the middle of the bloody State Dining Room, right in front of two Presidents. Still, by the look of this, he didn't have time to be embarrassed."
He read on, skimming through the brief biography that always accompanies such a death. The forty-nine-year-old Mikhallo Masorin had been a tough, uncompromising Siberian boss, a man who stood up for his people and their shattered communist dream. Here was a man who had brought real hope to this 4,350-mile-long landmass of bleak and terrible beauty, snow fields, and seven time zones -- one-third of all the land in the Northern Hemisphere.
Mikhallo was adored in Siberia. He was a politician who stood up fiercely against Moscow, frequently reminding his Russian rulers that the oil upon which the entire economy was built was Siberian. And it was the natural property of the Siberian people. And he wanted more money for it, from Central Government. Not for himself, but for his people.
The Urals Federal District is one of the three Siberian "kingdoms" that make up the huge area. The others are the Siberian Federal District, thousands and thousands of square miles between the Yenisei River and the Lena River, and then the Russian Far East. The Urals Federal District is easily the most important because that's where most of the oil fields are located.
Mikhallo Masorin was a towering figure, standing stark upon those desolate plains of Western Siberia, the freezing place that the locals claim was "forgotten by the Creator," but beneath which lie the largest oil fields on earth.
And now Mikhallo was gone, and Jimmy Ramshawe's hackles rose a lot higher than his shoes on the desk. "Streuth," he said quietly, taking a swig of his hot black coffee. "Wouldn't be surprised if a bloody lot of people were glad he died. None of 'em Siberian."
At times like this, Lt. Commander Ramshawe's instincts of suspicion, mistrust, misgivings, and downright disbelief sprang to the fore. And a few harsh lessons issued to him by the Big Man fought their way to the front of his mind . . . whenever a major politician with a lot of enemies dies, check it out . . . never trust a goddamned Russian . . . and never believe anything is beyond them, because it's not . . . the KGB lives, trust me.
"Wouldn't be the biggest shock in the world if the old bastard calls on this one," he said, refilling his coffee cup. And he was right about that.
Three minutes later his private line rang. Jimmy always thought it betrayed an irritable, impatient tone to its modern bell when the Big Man was on the line. And he was right about that too.
"Jimmy, you read the Washington Post yet? Front page, the dead Siberian?" Arnold Morgan's tone reflected that of the telephone.
"Well, first of all, you can forget all about that heart attack crap."
"And stop calling me 'sir.' I'm retired."
"Could've fooled me, sir."
Arnold Morgan chuckled. For the past few years he had treated Jimmy Ramshawe almost like a son, not simply because the young Aussie-American was the best Intelligence officer he had ever met, but also because he both knew and liked his father, a former Australian Navy Admiral and currently a high-ranking airline official in New York.
Jimmy was engaged to the surf goddess Jane Peacock, a student and the daughter of the Australian Ambassador to Washington, and Arnold was very fond of both families. But in Jimmy he had a soul mate, a much younger man, whose creed was suspicion, thoroughness, tireless determination to investigate, always prepared to play a hunch, and a total devotion to the United States, where Jimmy had been brought up.
He might have been engaged to a goddess, but Jimmy Ramshawe believed Arnold Morgan was God. Several years ago Admiral Morgan himself had been Director of the National Security Agency, and ever since had continued to consider himself in overall command of the place.
This suited Admiral George Morris, the current Director, extremely well, because there was no better advice available than that of Admiral Morgan. And the system suited everyone extremely well: the exCarrier Battle Group Commander George Morris, because Arnold's input made him look even smarter, and Jimmy because he trusted Arnold's instincts better than he trusted his own.
When Admiral Morgan called the NSA, Fort Meade trembled. His growl echoed through Crypto City, as the Military Intelligence hub was called. And, essentially, that was the way Arnold liked it.
"Jimmy, I was at the banquet, standing only about ten feet from the Siberian when he hit the deck. He went down like he'd been shot, which he plainly hadn't. But I watched him die, rolling back and forth, fighting for breath, just like his lungs had quit on him. Wasn't like any heart attack I ever saw . . ."
"How many you seen?"
"Shut up, Jimmy. You sound like Kathy. And listen . . . I want you very quietly to find out where the goddamned body is, where it's going, and whether there's going to be an autopsy."
"Never mind 'then what.' Just take step one, and call me back." Slam. Down phone.
"Glad to notice the old bastard's mellowing," muttered Jimmy. "Still, Kathy says that's how he's talked to at least two Presidents. So I guess I can't complain."He picked up his other phone line and told the operator to connect him to Bill Fogarty down at FBI headquarters. Three minutes later the top Washington field agent was on the case, and twenty minutes after that Bill was back with news of the fate of the corpse of Mikhallo Masorin.Ghost Force LP. Copyright © by Patrick Robinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Ghost Force by Patrick Robinson
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