Authors: Robert James Bidinotto
Copyright © 2011 by Robert
All rights reserved.
Electronic edition: December 2011
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.
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To the forgotten victims of crime,
to the unsung heroes who protect us and our freedoms,
and most of all
for encouraging me to chase a dream.
“Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends.”
The God of the Machine
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“Justice is that virtue of the soul which is distributive according to desert.”
“On the Virtues and Vices: Justice”
Monday, March 17, 11:45 a.m.
Today she would finally nail the bastard.
Annie Woods watched the traitor’s cab thread through the jam of courtesy vans and pull to the curb. The right rear door opened and he emerged. She slowed her own tailing car to a crawl.
Looking edgy, the man scanned the vehicles around him. Masked only by her sunglasses, she held her breath as his gaze slid right past her. Then he leaned back inside the cab, pulled out a rolling carry-on suitcase, and slammed the door shut. He wheeled it behind him, heading into the terminal. Through the building’s soaring windows she saw him make his way to the rear of a long line of passengers snaking toward the ticket counter.
She squeezed the Agency’s Taurus in behind a departing vehicle and leaped out. She flipped open her CIA credentials and held them in her outstretched hand as she approached a young state trooper directing traffic.
“Sir, we’ve got a national-security situation here,” she said. “I’m Ann Woods, with a federal task force following a criminal suspect. He’s just entered the terminal.”
He squinted at her ID. “Nobody told me anything about this.”
At that moment, two midnight-blue Crown
and a black Suburban pulled up beside them. Doors flew open and nine men in dark suits spilled out, quickly assembling behind the SUV. The trooper’s mouth fell open.
“Please alert airport security,” she continued. “Tell them they’re not to interfere or approach the ticket area until we give the all-clear.”
The startled trooper nodded, then moved off, radioing it in.
, the FBI’s special agent in charge, trotted over. His dark brown mustache was meticulously trimmed, and his eyes gleamed with an adrenaline rush. “Where’s he now?”
She nodded toward the building. “In line at the Aeroflot counter.”
They joined the others behind the SUV. “Okay, listen up,”
said. “You guys”—he pointed to three agents—“go in over there on the left and hold that entrance. You two—and you also, Ms. Woods—block the other door on the right. The rest of you, follow me in here. We’ll approach him and I’ll make the arrest.”
“But he knows you, Rick,” she said. “He’ll spot you as soon as you enter. Especially if you take in a team.”
frowned, clearly not happy to be challenged in front of his men. “So? We’ll have him surrounded. Where could he go?”
“That’s not the point. Remember, he’s probably armed—at least until he gets near security, when he’ll dump his weapon somewhere. But if he sees you, this could go south, fast. Maybe somebody gets hurt or taken hostage.”
“So, how would
“Give me a second.” She went to her car, grabbed her shoulder bag from the passenger seat, then rejoined them. She drew out a curly blonde wig, pulled it over her short brown hair, then put her sunglasses back on. From their sudden smiles, she knew the transformation was striking.
“I’ve used this in investigations. I can get right next to him without being recognized, then take him down before he knows what’s happening.”
“Why not?” She saw his uncertain look. “Look, here’s what you can do. Cover the far entrances, so he can’t escape. You stay outside this one. I’ll go in and wait until he’s left the ticket counter and heads toward the gates. I’ll radio you a
then count down from ten. On
you come in fast, from all directions. Yell, make some noise. When he turns your way, I’ll grab him from behind—right at
If we time this right, he’ll never see me coming.”
He still looked unsure.
“Remember,” she added, “come in only when I say
No sooner. Don’t alert him before I can reach him.”
“I don’t like it,”
has the lead on this arrest.... Okay, you do the initial approach. But since
the SAC here, it’s
responsibility to make the collar and read him his rights.”
She forced herself to speak evenly. “Of course. It’s your operation.”
She shouldered her bag and headed toward the entrance. Inside, she took position behind another line. She pulled out her cell and raised it to her ear, feeling the tug of the pistol rig under her tailored jacket. “Six in position,” she whispered into her throat microphone, pretending to be chatting into the phone.
Out of the corner of her eye she kept track of her quarry.
James Muller was chubby, baby-faced, and fifty-three. He wore rumpled
slacks and a wilted white shirt beneath a navy blazer. For a veteran manager in the CIA’s Office of Security—where Annie worked as an investigator—Muller’s tradecraft left much to be desired. He fidgeted, checked his watch constantly, and stole furtive glances at fellow passengers. He kept running his fingers through his lank, thinning
She watched him shuffle toward the front of his line. She tried to suppress her anger and focus only on him. But she couldn’t help thinking about the absurdities that had put
in charge of Muller’s arrest. The FBI, not the CIA, wielded authority over counterintelligence activities on
was the FBI’s chief liaison with
As the security officer who first suspected, then investigated, and finally exposed Muller’s treason, Annie had worried for months about
interference. That’s why she waited until after she’d already done the critical leg-work before telling her boss about her investigation. Impressed, he’d pulled strings to allow her to remain involved to the end.
But now, it was clear that
intended to cut her out and hog the glory of the arrest.
Muller reached the front of his line, then wheeled his carry-on bag toward a waiting ticket agent.
“Six,” she whispered. “He’s at the counter. Stand by for my count.”
“Control copies. Guys, get ready!”
Her silent cell phone pressed to her ear, Annie threaded her way to the back of her line, then moved to position herself for the intercept. She reached a point between Muller and the corridor leading back to the boarding gates. He’d have to pass her here.
She set her shoulder bag on the floor and pretended now to send a text message.
She felt a drop of sweat trickle down her back.
Felt the weight of the holster under her jacket.
In her peripheral vision, Muller took his ticket from the counter woman, grabbed his rolling bag, then turned in her direction.
“Mark,” she whispered in her throat microphone. “Ten...nine...eight...seven...six...”
“Go! Now! Now! Now!”
The sudden shout in her earpiece startled her. Then noise, to her right. She looked.
was charging through the entrance alone, gun in hand.
“Freeze!” he was shouting. “Freeze! Freeze!”
She couldn’t believe it. She wheeled. Saw Muller still twenty feet behind her, staring wide-eyed at
. Then he whipped around, looking for someplace to run.
And spotted her looking right at him.
She dropped her cell and hurtled toward him.
He released his grip on the suitcase. His right hand clawed inside his blazer.
Beside Muller, a young couple froze in place.
“Down! Everybody down!”
Behind him, other agents, yelling and pushing through the milling mass of passengers.
Can’t let him shoot....
She sprinted toward him as he looked down, fumbling inside his jacket.
She reached him just as his gun pulled free.
Her left hand seized that wrist and her right palm drove into his throat and she slammed against him, her momentum driving them back over his suitcase and onto the floor.
She landed on him hard. Heard him gasp. Heard his weapon clatter across the marble floor.
Then something massive smashed into her, knocking her aside.
She lay sprawled on her back, sucking in air, reeling from the impact.
“Got him!” A beefy young agent straddled Muller, knees pinning the traitor’s arms, a .40 caliber
pressed to his captive’s forehead.
“James Muller...you...are under arrest!”
voice, quavering. He stood over Muller, panting, legs splayed too far apart, pointing his own service pistol in extended hands. The muzzle was wavering.
She forced herself to sit up. Other agents retrieved Muller’s weapon and suitcase, then established a perimeter. The young agent atop Muller flipped him onto his stomach, slapped cuffs around his wrists behind his back, and began to pat him down. He glanced over at her sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he said. “Hey, you okay?”
She wasn’t in the mood to reassure him. Her right shoulder felt like it had been clubbed with a baseball bat. She hauled herself slowly to her feet and took stock. Her own
was still in its holster. Her favorite sunglasses lay next to Muller, crushed. He remained curled up on his side, fetal position, coughing and retching, his hands secured behind his back. Around them, scores of passengers, some whimpering, huddled against walls or lay terrified on the terminal floor; others hurried away down the corridors.
Rubbing her shoulder, she stepped toward
, who lowered his weapon. His eyes were too wide; they held both fear and relief.
She got right in his face. “You jumped my signal.”
He took an involuntary step back. “You...are you all right?”
“No thanks to you, you stupid son of a bitch.”
They jammed into a small airport security office. State police milled outside the door. Another trooper, a sergeant, sat at a
metal desk barking into the phone. Muller slouched in a chair next to the desk, hands still cuffed behind his back, two Bureau agents looming over him. They’d wrapped a towel filled with ice from a soda machine around his rapidly bruising throat. His cheeks were red and he was still coughing.
entered the room. His eyes darted at her, then scurried away. He marched straight to Muller. Drew an envelope from inside his suit jacket, then unfolded a document from it.
“Okay. To finish the formalities. James Harold Muller, you are hereby under arrest for violation of Title 18, United States Code Section 794(c), conspiracy to commit espionage. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say—”
Muller shot a glance up at him. “Not another word, Ricky,” he interrupted, his voice hoarse. “I know my rights.”
“Look, I have to—”