Read Near Dark: A Thriller Online

Authors: Brad Thor

Tags: #Fiction, #Policital Thriller, #Thriller/Action & Adventure

Near Dark: A Thriller (11 page)

BOOK: Near Dark: A Thriller
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“I’d go back to CCTV footage. I’d want it from any cameras that may have
picked up something—cameras around his apartment, his office, and the park where he was abducted.”

“Were there any?”

“Not any that caught our team.”

“You’re sure?”

“Positive,” Harvath replied.

“So then what would you do?” asked Lawlor.

“I’d widen the net. I’d review all footage from all ports of entry in the days leading up to his disappearance. Examine everybody and everything coming into
Kaliningrad. Every bus, train, car, boat, and truck.”

“Same for vehicles leaving the exclave immediately after Tretyakov’s abduction?”

“It depends on how smart the Russians are,” said Harvath. “We had a major shootout with their soldiers leading up to our exfil. Those who survived saw us pile into a boat and race off across the lake into Poland. We didn’t hide our method of extraction.”

“But
the Lithuanian truck driver helped get you close to the lake, correct?”

Harvath nodded.

“Where was he headed after he dropped you?”

“He said he was going home.”

“Back to Lithuania?” Lawlor asked, just to be clear.

Harvath again nodded.

“It’s a pretty big haystack—vehicles that entered and left Kaliningrad around Tretyakov’s disappearance—but if they looked at vehicles crossing back into
Lithuania near the time you conducted your exfil, it narrows the field considerably.”

Nicholas, who had been clicking away on his laptop, asked, “What kind of details can you give me about the driver and his truck?”

“The truck was a Swedish make,” said Harvath, pulling up a picture in his mind. “Scania. It was old. Nineteen-nineties, maybe. Manual transmission.”

“Color?”

“Blue.”

“Did you
get a number plate?”

Harvath shook his head.

“Tell me about the driver,” Nicholas continued.

“Caucasian. Gray hair. About five-foot-seven. Forty-five to fifty pounds overweight. Somewhere in his sixties. According to Landsbergis, the man came from proud stock. His father, grandfather, and two uncles were Forest Brothers—Baltic partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against the Soviets during
and after World War II.”

“You’ve got exceptional recall. How about a name?”

Harvath knew this was the logical next question. “We were never given his name. That was part of protecting him.”

Nicholas consulted his notes. “So, overweight, mid-sixties, Lithuanian driver of a blue 1990s Scania whose ancestors harassed the Red Army. That’s all we have? Nothing else? Nothing at all?”

“In his defense,”
stated Lawlor, “you don’t get to see a lot from inside a refrigerated trailer.”

“Except I wasn’t inside the trailer,” Harvath replied, searching his memory. “Not on the exfil.”

“You weren’t?”

“No. The entire op had gone sideways. Everyone was looking for us.
We were hiding out in an old, broken-down car wash. A couple of Kaliningrad cops had shown up and Chase had been left with no choice but
to take them both out. It had been hard on all of us. Regardless, in the midst of all that heat, I didn’t want to be in the back, blind, and so had told the driver I would be riding up front with him in the cab.”

“Did you see anything there that might help?”

Ever the detail guy, Harvath strained to remember something of value. The Lithuanian had been partial to new-car-smell air fresheners,
which was humorous, considering how old his truck was.

He remembered the pieces of duct tape covering the cracks in the truck’s faded dashboard. He also remembered the practically vintage, removable, orange-buttoned Alpine radio. But there was something else. Harvath remembered seeing some paperwork.

The driver had been taken aback when he had insisted on riding shotgun. Nevertheless, the Lithuanian
had relented. When Harvath had climbed in, there were several documents laid out in the cab. As the driver was on his way back across the border, Harvath figured they must have been transit documents.

“I think I saw a name,” he said.

Nicholas looked up, over the top of his laptop.

“Lukas,” said Harvath, not really trusting his mind after all the drinking. “No, wait,” he corrected. “It wasn’t
Lukas. It was
Luksa
. Spelled L-u-k-š-a.”

“First or last?”

“Last name. I think. There were only bits and pieces of papers visible.”

“Like I said,” Nicholas repeated, “Your recall is exceptional. Anything else?”

“Yeah. The guy was wearing a knockoff Members Only jacket and smelled like Drakkar Noir. That’s it.”

The little man chuckled. “I don’t know how useful that last bit is,” he said as
he went back to his computer, “but it paints a definite picture.”

Harvath’s life sucked. His body ached, his heart was smashed in pieces, and he was dying for a drink, but the graveyard humor in him refused to die. The truck driver had actually been wearing a threadbare sweater and had smelled like garlic. It felt good to make his friend smile.
It was the first time he had felt anything other
than rage or despair in a while.

“So where does all this leave us?” he asked.

Lawlor shook his head. “I don’t know that it leaves us any better than when we started. Despite your feelings regarding Jasinski, I think someone should speak with her, just to make sure she hasn’t talked to anyone about Pedersen. Same thing for Proctor. Landsbergis too. I don’t think we should take anything for granted.”

“And what am I supposed to do while all of this is going on? Lawn darts? Horseback riding?”

“Actually,” said Nicholas, checking the clock on his computer, “you’ve got a tee time.”

“A what?”

“Someone’s expecting you at the golf course.”

“Who?” he asked, knowing it couldn’t be the President. Had POTUS been at Camp David, there would have been a palpable buzz and a heck of a lot more activity.

“Don’t worry,” said Lawlor. “Just go. It’s important. We’ll be here when you get back.”

CHAPTER 17

T
he minute Harvath saw who was standing at the second tee, he regretted having made the walk over.

“It’s no Burning Tree,” the man said, referring to the exclusive golf club in Bethesda that was allegedly a design inspiration. “But how many people can say they’ve played the President’s personal course?”

Dr. Joseph “Joe” Levi was the CIA’s top psychiatrist. When Harvath had escaped
Russia and had been delivered back home, he had spent four days in a safe house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland being debriefed by Levi and CIA Director McGee.

It was standard operating procedure. Harvath had been held captive and tortured by a hostile foreign intelligence service. His debrief focused on three elements—what information the Russians had tried to extract from him, what information,
if any, he had given up, and how the interrogations were carried out. Harvath had no doubt that his experience would be a case taught to future American intelligence operatives.

Once McGee was confident that the Russians hadn’t had Harvath long enough to break him, and that the handful of tiny things he had offered up were small potatoes, he had removed himself from the debrief and had let Levi
conduct a more personal review. The moment the shrink had begun asking about Harvath’s feelings over losing his wife, Harvath had colorfully instructed him to take one very large step back.

He wasn’t interested in having his feelings explored. What’s more, he worked for The Carlton Group, not the CIA. Levi, beyond the national
security implications of his capture, didn’t have the standing to
analyze him. He wasn’t applying for a job with the CIA. If and when he ever did, they could run him through the psychological wringer then.

Levi was an interesting duck. In a clinical, debrief setting, he was all business—super professional, attuned to every detail. Nothing escaped him and he took copious notes. But when you caught him in a more relaxed setting, he seemed able to only speak one
of two languages—cars or golf.

Dressed in a polo shirt and madras Bermuda shorts, he leaned nonchalantly on his graphite club, pulling a glove onto his right hand. “A hundred bucks says I’m in the cup in two.”

This fucking guy
, Harvath thought. This was a part of the modern intelligence world that he really disliked. Access to mental health professionals was a good thing. Having them forced
upon you, though—no matter how casual the setting—was something entirely different.

The last time Levi had tried to crawl inside his head, he had been sitting on the dock of the aforementioned safe house, minding his own business, when the shrink had materialized, dragging a cooler full of booze. It had been his attempt at bonding, in the hopes that Harvath would open up. But after a couple of
drinks, Levi had left, disappointed.

Harvath just wasn’t a talker—especially about his feelings. What he was, was a survivor. And in his line of work, you survived by being able to wall yourself off from your feelings; to put unpleasant or uncomfortable things in a box and lock them away. Feelings were distractions and being distracted could get you, or worse, others, killed.

Just off the tee
were two golf bags. One was very high-end and obviously belonged to Levi. The other was one of the “loaners” Camp David kept for visiting dignitaries. The fact that the doc had not only had the foresight, but also the self-assuredness, to bring along his own sticks said a lot about him.

His glove in place, Levi leaned over, pressed a tee into the ground, and placed a ball atop it. Straightening
up, he gestured toward the guest bag and said, “I thought we’d get a little exercise and have a chat.”

In Harvath’s world, golf wasn’t “exercise.” It wasn’t even close, and especially not on a one-hole course. “How about we go for a run
instead?” he offered, knowing the shrink wouldn’t bite. Levi was more of the “gentleman’s triathlon” type—sauna, steam, and then shower.

“Didn’t bring my running
gear,” the man replied. “Go grab a club. We’ll see who gets closest to the pin.”

Harvath wasn’t interested. “I’m good,” he said. “You go ahead.”

Levi shrugged and, after taking a couple practice swings, asked, “You know what the difference between golf and government is?”

“No. What is it?”

“In government, you can always improve your lie.”

Harvath smiled. It was funny, even more so coming
from someone who worked for the government and whose job it was to get to the truth.

“Now watch this drive,” said Levi, quoting an infamous line George W. Bush had given right after delivering a serious statement to the press on terrorism.

Drawing the club back, he swung straight down and through the ball. There was a resounding
thwack
and the ball went sailing into the air. The two men then
watched as it dropped three feet from the hole.

“Drive for show,” said Levi, “and putt for dough. Let me switch clubs and we’ll walk to the green.”

“Is this the exercise part? Because maybe I should stretch first,” Harvath deadpanned. The green was only 140 yards away.

Levi looked at him and then, removing a pencil and scorecard from his bag, pretended to make a note on the back. “Subject’s
sense of humor appears intact,” he said to himself, but loud enough so that Harvath could hear.

“What are you doing here, Joe?”

“Working on my game.”

Harvath smiled. “I think you’re here to work on my game.”

“That depends,” Levi replied, smiling back, as he tucked the card and pencil into his pocket. “Does your game need work?”

“Nope.”

“Good. Then we’re just two guys out strolling the world’s
most exclusive golf course.”

Slipping his driver back into the bag, Levi selected his putter and headed for the green. Harvath accompanied him.

“I understand you were down in Florida for a while,” the doctor said. “How was it?”

“Warm.”

“I heard you got kicked out of a hotel for slugging a guest in the bar. Would you like to talk about that?”

“Not really.”

“How about when your team found
you? You were outside another bar, this time fighting with not one, but
two
men. Why don’t we talk about that?”

“Sorry, Joe, I’m not interested.”

“In talking about Florida?”

“In talking about anything,” said Harvath.

Levi changed direction. “What do you think about McLarens?”

“The sports cars?”

“Yeah, particularly the 720S Spider.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m thinking about getting one.”

Harvath
didn’t want to laugh, but he couldn’t hold it in. “You’re a psychiatrist employed by the CIA. Those cars cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“And?”


And
, I think if you rolled up to Langley driving one of those, they’d think you were crazy, on the take, or maybe both.”

“So not a good idea?” the doctor asked.

Harvath shook his head, the smile lingering on his face. “There’d be an investigation
opened before you even reached the lobby.”

“Lower my sights then?”

“Just a little.”

Levi nodded as he pretended to reflect upon Harvath’s advice and they walked on.

A few moments later, he asked, “Do you remember the last time we saw each other?”

This time it was Harvath who nodded. “On the Eastern Shore. Right after I got back.”

“Correct. Do you remember what I said to you?”

“We were in
that safe house for days. A lot was said.”

Levi shook his head. “No. Out on the dock. Right before I left.”

“Not really.”

It was a lie, but Harvath had meant it when he had said he didn’t feel like talking.

“I spoke about the trauma you had been through. Not just the physical, but the emotional and psychological trauma as well. Those were what I was most worried about—and I told you that,
in my experience, people who had suffered like you went in one of two directions. They either allowed themselves to grieve and heal, thereby coming out stronger, or they gave up, turned to substance abuse, and often ended up committing suicide.”

It was now Harvath’s turn to pretend as if he were reflecting. Finally, he said, “Don’t remember that part.”

Levi knew that was a lie. He also knew,
just by looking at him, that Harvath knew it as well.

“The last thing I said to you,” the shrink stated, “was that I was positive you could come back stronger, but that it had to be your choice. You had to want it badly enough to do the work.”

“Maybe I don’t want it badly enough.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Believe whatever you want,” said Harvath. “It’s not my problem.”

They were now halfway
to the green and Levi stopped. “Tell me what happened in Florida.”

He was pissing Harvath off. “For fuck’s sake,” he replied. “Let it go.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“What I know, is that you work for the CIA and I don’t. Therefore, you have no authority over me.”

“Scot—”

Harvath held up his hand and cut him off. “This isn’t happening. I’m not interested in being analyzed.”

Levi was about
to respond when a golf cart pulled off the path and sped toward them. Harvath recognized Lance Corporal Garcia behind the wheel.

“You’re wanted back at Laurel,” she said, coming to a stop next to him.

“Now?”

“Right away.”

Harvath looked at Levi as he climbed into the cart. “A hundred bucks says you miss that putt.”

Feigning disapproval, the doctor removed the scorecard and pencil from his
pocket, and pretended to make another note. “Since last session, subject also seems to have developed a distinctly sadistic streak.”

Harvath made a finger gun, pretended to shoot the doc in each knee, and then gestured for Garcia to move out.

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