The end game, p.1
The End Game, p.1Part #3 of A Brit in the FBI series by Catherine Coulter
ALSO BY CATHERINE COULTER
THE FBI THRILLERS
Power Play (2014)
Split Second (2011)
Twice Dead: Riptide and Hemlock Bay (2011)
Double Jeopardy (2008): The Target and The Edge
Double Take (2007)
The Beginning (2005): The Cove and The Maze
Point Blank (2005)
Eleventh Hour (2002)
Hemlock Bay (2001)
The Edge (1999)
The Target (1998)
The Maze (1997)
The Cove (1996)
A BRIT IN THE FBI THRILLERS (WITH J. T. ELLISON)
The Lost Key (2014)
The Final Cut (2013)
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Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Coulter
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The end game / Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison.
p. cm. — (A Brit in the FBI ; 3)
1. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation—Fiction. 2. Terrorism—Prevention—Fiction.
3. Intelligence officers—Fiction. I. Ellison, J. T., author. II. Title.
PS3553.O843E54 2015 2015024632
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Also by Catherine Coulter
1: Knight to F3
Monday: 11 p.m.–4 a.m. 2: Knight to F6
3: Pawn to C4
4: Pawn to G6
5: Knight to C3
6: Bishop to G7
7: Pawn to D4
9: Bishop to F4
10: Pawn to D5
11: Queen to B3
12: Pawn takes C4
13: Queen takes C4
14: Pawn to C6
15: Pawn to E4
16: Knight on B to D7
17: Rook to D1
18: Knight to B6
19: Queen to C5
20: Bishop to G4
21: Bishop to G5
22: Knight to A4
23: Queen to A3
Tuesday: 7 a.m.–2 p.m. 24: Knight takes C3
25: Pawn takes C3
26: Knight takes E4
27: Bishop takes E7
28: Queen to B6
29: Bishop to C4
30: Knight takes C3
31: Bishop to C5
32: Rook on F to E8 CHECK
33: King to F1
34: Bishop to E6
35: Bishop takes B6
36: Bishop takes C4 CHECK
37: King to G1
38: Knight to E2 CHECK
39: King to F1
40: Knight takes D4 CHECK
41: King to G1
42: Knight to E2 CHECK
43: King to F1
44: Knight to C3 CHECK
45: King to G1
46: Pawn takes B6
47: Queen to B4
48: Rook to A4
Tuesday: 2 p.m.–6 p.m. 49: Queen takes B6
50: Knight takes D1
51: Pawn to H3
52: Rook takes A2
53: King to H2
54: Knight takes F2
55: Rook to E1
56: Rook takes E1
Tuesday: 6 p.m.–Midnight 57: Queen to D8 CHECK
58: Bishop to F8
59: Knight takes E1
60: Bishop to D5
61: Knight to F3
62: Knight to E4
63: Queen to B8
64: Pawn to B5
Wednesday: 6 a.m.–Noon 65: Pawn to H4
66: Pawn to H5
67: Knight to E5
68: King to G7
69: King to G1
Wednesday: Noon–4 p.m. 70: Bishop to C5 CHECK
71: King to F1
72: Knight to G3 CHECK
73: King to E1
74: Bishop to B4 CHECK
Wednesday: 4 p.m.–Midnight 75: King to D1
76: Bishop to B3 CHECK
77: King to C1
78: Knight to E2 CHECK
79: King to B1
80: Knight to C3 CHECK
81: King to C1
Friday: 8 a.m. 82: Rook to C2 CHECKMATE
May our upcoming adventures in Italy prove as spectacular as the wild roller coaster in The End Game.
It’s wonderful to know that our two writer brains will always find a way.
For Laura Benedict and Ariel Lawhon. You know why.
And for my Randy. You know why, too.
As always, to Karen Evans, my partner in synergy, always there at my side, at my back, always supportive, helpful, always positive. Thank you.
To my sweetheart of a husband, always ready to brainstorm, to throw around ideas, to be the rock.
And to my wonderful household: Lesley DeLone, Catherine Lyons Labate, and Yngrid Bejarano. Thank you for all you do—your energy, your positiveness, your laughter, your steady hands on the rudder.
Thank you all,
What a fun, glorious ride this collaboration has turned out to be. I have to thank Catherine first and foremost, for bringing me on board, for constant laughter and fun, and always challenging me to be the very best writer I can be. We make one helluva team, lady, and I can’t wait to see what we cook up next!
And to the usual suspects: I couldn’t do it without you. This means you Scott Miller, Chris Pepe, Laura Benedict, Ariel Lawhon, Sherrie Saint, Karen Evans, Amy Kerr, Jeff Abbott, and darling husband. And for my parents, for listening, and listening, and listening.
—J. T. Ellison
United States–Mexico Border
Three Months Ago
Zahir Damari watched the coyote turn to face the ragged band of Hondurans on the sloping Texas side of the Rio Grande. As the last Honduran climbed up the bank, pulled up by his father, Zahir saw hope now dawning on the dirty faces, saw the relief in their tired eyes at surviving the nightmare trip. They’d made it; they were in America.
The coyote, Miguel Gonzales, eyed them with contempt—nothing new in that, he’d treated this group with unveiled scorn since the beginning of their trek eight days before. Gonzales stuck out his hand to the leader of the group, an older man, a father of two younger sons. He waggled his fingers.
“Pagenme porque ustedes son unos miserables.”
He wanted the other half of the money owed. No, the thieving scum wanted more. Gonzales had upped the payoff. Zahir saw the Hondurans’ shock, their fear, saw them talking among themselves, voices rising.
Gonzales pulled a pistol, aimed it at the group, and held out his hand again.
Zahir smiled at Miguel Gonzales, a brutal man with stained teeth and black eyes that reflected Hell. He walked up to him, his hand outstretched with bills, and as the coyote grabbed them, Zahir stepped in quickly and gently slipped his stiletto into Gonzales’s filthy shirt. Gonzales didn’t make a sound because Zahir’s knife was always true. It slid under the breastbone, directly into the coyote’s heart. Gonzales simply looked up into Zahir’s face, dropped the pistol, fell on his side, and died in a mess of dry shrubs.
The Hondurans were frozen in place, too terrified and shocked to move. Zahir leaned down, pulled out his stiletto, cleaned it on Miguel’s filthy jeans. He calmly went through Miguel’s pockets, pulled out a big wad of bills, handed them to the young woman closest to him, and smiled.
“Buena suerte”—good luck—and he gave them a salute and walked away, toward El Paso, only three miles to the north.
The day was brutally hot, but he didn’t mind since he’d been raised in the worst desert heat imaginable.
In his shirt pocket was a small notebook filled with information and strategy from Hezbollah’s top enforcer, Hasan Hadawi, the Hammer, about a brilliant young scientist named Matthew Spenser, and how Zahir could use him to help him cut off two heads of the hydra. It made Zahir’s heart speed up to think about the actual doing of it, the awesome pleasure that would course through him when he’d succeeded.
Zahir knew most of the intel and strategy was from Hadawi’s Iranian master, Colonel Vahid Rahbar, openly committed to the obliteration of anyone who wasn’t a Shia, which would leave a small world population indeed.
Zahir knew Spenser and his small group were hiding near Lake Tahoe. Spenser, according to the Hammer, had gone off the rails years before when his family had been killed in London’s terrorist subway bombing in 2005. Now he led a small group called Celebrants of Earth, or COE, their goal to eliminate oil imports from the Middle East, but no murder, no casualties. The idiot ideologues. Until recently, Zahir knew the group had operated in Britain and Europe, blowing up only mid-sized oil refineries, small crap. But now they were here, in America, their message to the media after each bombing always the same:
No more oil from terrorist countries or you will pay the price.
Both the Colonel and the Hammer believed Spenser was an unsophisticated anti-Muslim zealot, and ripe for manipulation. Over the Hammer’s favorite gin and countless French Gauloises, he’d told Zahir to become Matthew Spenser’s best friend, his mentor, a man he would come to trust implicitly, a man he would follow. “You will gently mold and manipulate this fool’s penny-ante goals until they become your glorious ones”—that is, until Spenser became a murderer. Zahir knew it would be a challenge, but one he would win. He knew he wasn’t as smart as Spenser in science, but he was years beyond Spenser in strategy, planning, execution, and sheer balls. But unlike the bare-fisted Hammer, Zahir was never guilty of underestimating an opponent, or reducing him to faults and weaknesses and strengths. He knew when to use a hammer, when to use a simple lie.
It was over the Hammer’s fourth gin that he’d told Zahir with a snicker that Spenser might have a possible weakness—a woman named Vanessa, a beauty, late twenties, red hair, milk-white skin, and blue eyes, and the Hammer showed him a photo of her. She hardly fit the image of a wacko bomber, but the Hammer assured him she’d been building bombs with an Irish IRA git named Ian McGuire and his faction. Both groups hated what they saw as radical Islam’s encroachment into their world, and according to the Hammer, this common cause united them.
With another snicker, he told Zahir the woman and Spenser were probably lovers and his grin split his mouth wide enough to see the gold filling in his back molar. He suggested Zahir seduce Vanessa away from Spenser, but Zahir couldn’t figure out what that would gain him, certainly not Spenser’s trust and friendship. He would see.
But it was Iranian colonel Vahid Rahbar who’d told him his most important goal: to steal Spenser’s amazing invention, a bomb that looked like a gold fifty-cent piece, no larger, and, according to their sources, would be undetectable. Nearly perfected, they’d heard, and the minute it was perfected, he wanted it. The colonel had rubbed his hands together. “You, my friend, will light the fuse that will begin the war, then we will explode their cities, kill millions, and none of them will even know how it was done. Our casualties—it is nothing compared to what we will gain. When it is all over, we will rule the world.” Unspoken was Shia will arise from the ashes and control the earth’s destiny.
Zahir didn’t really care if Shia ran the world or if Buddha took over. His specialty would always be in demand.
Zahir whistled as he got into another stolen car, lifted from a side street in Reno. He would steal another car in a place named Incline Village, drive into the Sierras, and find Spenser.
He wondered which head of the hydra he’d manipulate Spenser into killing—the president or the vice president.
The game was about to begin.
KNIGHT TO F3
Grangemouth Refinery, Scotland
Four Months Ago
Vanessa was crouched down, staring into the night, her muscles tense and cramping in the night chill. It was her first job with Matthew, her first bomb built especially for him. It would work, she knew it would, but deep down she had doubts, and hated it. She shook her head, knowing she’d produce a lovely explosion for him as she watched for Ian and his boys. The Firth of Forth was to her left, salt and brine mingling with the sharp scent of unrefined oil.
The darkness was broken only by the lights of the refinery, always running, even after the sun went down. The lighted metal poles mingled with security lamps and boom lights to halo the bobbing headlamps on the workers’ helmets. The whole scene looked fantastical, a stage setting in an artificial gloom.
Vanessa looked at her watch. Five minutes to go. Ian was placing the bomb, and at his signal she should be the one to detonate it, but not this time. Matthew told her he was going to be the one to blow up the night sky.
Well, let him, if it gave him a kick. Or was it this particular refinery? Even though it was her job, she smiled at him as she handed over the trigger. It didn’t matter, she knew her baby would work just fine.
Vanessa didn’t yet understand him, but it was early days. She recognized his genius, his facility with ideas and each step they had to consider before moving ahead with his selected target. She also knew his amazing bomb wasn’t yet perfected. If it was, surely he’d want to test it.
She looked at her watch again, said aloud to Matthew, “Where is Ian? He should be out by now. The security guard will circle back around in thirty seconds. He’s cutting it too close.”
Matthew Spenser, the Bishop, a moniker he’d been given by Ian a long time before, because, as Ian had explained to her, he’d learned that Matthew existed in a master’s chess realm that was always ten moves ahead of everyone else, and so didn’t he deserve the na
He said to Vanessa, “Ian’s never failed me. He’ll be along. He knows what he’s doing.”
Three minutes now. They couldn’t use comms; radio frequencies could set off the bomb.
She saw movement by the perimeter, and her adrenaline spiked. No, it wasn’t Ian. Where was he? She felt gut-wrenching fear that something had gone wrong, that he’d been caught. Or, almost as bad, that she’d messed up and the bomb was somehow defective. Or, at the very worst, she’d been found out. No, she had to calm herself. Her beautiful, powerful Semtex bomb would work and Ian was a master at this; he’d get it set in place and get himself and their guys out of the plant. All would go well.
She let out her breath. Since her prints were all over the bomb and Ian always wore gloves, the message would be clear and received. Her bosses would know it was her group who’d blown up Grangemouth.
Matthew squeezed her arm, gave her a quick smile. “Your first bomb for me.” She could only nod. He felt to her like he was ready to jump out of his skin, or his brain, maybe both, but she felt it, too, this manic brew of emotions that roared through both of them. She wondered if in the aftermath of the explosion he would try to get her into bed, to celebrate scoring this victory by scoring her. She’d hold him off, waiting, waiting, trying to judge if she would have to go the sex route to find out what she needed to know.
She took one last look at her watch. “We’re out of time.”
“Vanessa, look there.”
Ian was running across the field toward them, his now-empty backpack flying like wings behind him, a crazy smile stretched across his face, three of their men behind him.
She put in her earplugs.
Matthew was watching her as he stuffed in his own earplugs. Then, without a word, he grinned down at her and handed her back the trigger with a flourish. “Have at it, Vanessa, have at it.”
The End Game by Catherine Coulter / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime / History & Fiction / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes