Book: The Shooters

The Shooters





G . P. P U T N A M ’ S S O N S




A L S O B Y W. E . B . G R I F F I N




B O O K I : B Y O R D E R O F T H E P R E S I D E N T




B O O K I I I : T H E H U N T E R S



B O O K I : T H E L I E U T E N A N T S

B O O K I : M E N I N B LU E

B O O K I I : T H E C A P TA I N S


B O O K I I I : T H E M A J O R S

B O O K I I I : T H E V I C T I M


B O O K I V: T H E W I T N E S S


B O O K V: T H E A S S A S S I N S

B O O K V I : T H E G E N E R A L S

B O O K V I : T H E M U R D E R E R S

B O O K V I I : T H E N E W B R E E D



B O O K V I I I : F I N A L J U S T I C E

B O O K I X : S PE C I A L O P S



B O O K I : T H E L A S T H E RO E S

B O O K I : S E M PE R F I

B O O K I I : T H E S E C R E T WA R R I O R S

B O O K I I : C A L L TO A R M S

B O O K I I I : T H E S O L D I E R S P I E S





B O O K V: L I N E O F F I R E

( w i t h W il l i a m E . Bu t t e r w o r t h I V )



B O O K V I I : B E H I N D T H E L I N E S

( w i t h W il l i a m E . Bu t t e r w o r t h I V )

B O O K V I I I : I N D A N G E R ’ S PAT H

B O O K I X : U N D E R F I R E

B O O K X : R E T R E AT, H E L L !





G . P. P U T N A M ’ S S O N S


The Shooters


Publishers Since 1838

Published by the Penguin Group

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Copyright © 2008 by W. E. B. Griffin

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Griffin, W. E. B.

The shooters / W. E. B. Griffin.



ISBN: 1-4362-0596-4

1. United States. Army. Delta Force—Fiction. 2. Undercover operations—Fiction.

3. Drug dealers—Uruguay—Fiction. I. Title.





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, businesses, companies, events, or locales

is entirely coincidental.

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of

publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after

publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author

or third-party websites or their content.

26 July 1777

The necessity of procuring good intelligence is apparent and

need not be further urged.

George Washington

General and Commander in Chief

The Continental Army



An OSS Jedburgh first lieutenant

who became director of the Central Intelligence Agency.


An OSS Jedburgh first lieutenant

who became a colonel and the father of Special Forces.


A legendary Marine intelligence officer

whom the KGB hated more than any other U.S. intelligence officer—

and not only because he wrote the definitive work on them.



A legendary Special Forces Command Sergeant Major

who retired and then went on to hunt down the infamous Carlos the Jackal.

Billy could have terminated Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s

but could not get permission to do so. After fifty years in

the business, Billy is still going after the bad guys.


A U.S. Army OSS Second Lieutenant attached to the British SOE

who jumped into Occupied France alone and later

became a legendary U.S. Army counterintelligence officer.


An Army Special Operations officer

who could have terminated the head terrorist of the seized cruise ship

Achille Lauro but could not get permission to do so.


An Army intelligence officer

who has written the best analysis of our war against terrorists

and of our enemy that I have ever seen.



A senior intelligence officer who, despite his youth,

reminds me of Bill Colby more and more each day.


A legendary Defense Intelligence Agency officer

who retired and now follows in Billy Waugh’s footsteps.





Airport Highway

Asunción, Paraguay

1625 25 August 2005

When Byron J. Timmons, Jr., saw what was causing the airport-bound traffic

to be stopped and backed up for at least a kilometer, he muttered an obscenity

that was absolutely not appropriate for an assistant legal attaché of the embassy

of the United States of America.

The twenty-nine-year-old—who was six feet one and weighed two hundred

five pounds—had a reservation on the Aerolíneas Argentinas five-thirty flight

to Buenos Aires and it looked to him to be entirely likely that these bastards

were going to make him miss it.

Timmons looked at the driver of his embassy vehicle, a lightly armored

Chevrolet TrailBlazer.

Franco Julio César—a quiet thirty-nine-year-old Paraguayan national who

was employed as a chauffeur by the U.S. embassy—was silently shaking his head

in frustration. He, too, knew what was going on.

These bastards were officers of the Paraguayan Highway Police and they

were running a roadblock. There was a Highway Police car and a Peugeot van

on the shoulder. The van had a sliding side door—now open—so that it could

serve as sort of a mobile booking station. Inside was a small desk behind which

sat a booking sergeant. He would decide whether the miscreant caught by the

roadblock would be simply given a summons or hauled away in handcuffs.

There were three police forces in Paraguay. In addition to the Highway Po-

lice, which was run by the Minister of Public Works & Communication, the

Minister of the Interior had a Capital Police Force, which patrolled Asunción,

and a National Police Force, which patrolled the rest of the country.

The opinion Timmons held of all three was as pejoratively vulgar as the ob-

scenity he uttered when he saw the Highway Police roadblock. His opinion was

based on his experiences with the various police forces since arriving in Paraguay,

and his criterion for judgment was that he thought of himself as a cop.


W . E . B . G R I F F I N

He actually had been a police officer, briefly, but the real reason he thought

of himself as a cop was that that was what the Timmons family did—be cops.

His paternal grandfather, Francis, used to say that he was one of the

only two really honest cops on the job in Chicago. He refused to identify the

other one.

Francis and Mary-Margaret Timmons had five children, three boys and

two girls. Two of the boys—Aloysius and Byron—went on the force. Francis

Junior became a priest. Dorothy became Sister Alexandria. Elizabeth married

a cop, Patrick Donnehy. Father Francis, who was assigned to Saint Rose of

Lima’s, spent most of his time as a police chaplain.

Aloysius and Joanne Timmons had four children, all boys. Three went on

the force and one went in the Army. Byron and Helen Timmons had five chil-

dren, three girls and two boys. Two of the girls married cops, and Matthew went

on the force.

Byron Junior skipped the third grade at Saint Rose’s, primarily because he

was much larger than the other kids but also because the sisters understood that

he already knew what they were going to teach him in the third grade—he never

seemed to have his nose out of a book.

The sisters also got him a scholarship to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. His

Uncle Francis and his mother were delighted. His grandfather and father were

not. They quite irreverently agreed that The Goddamn Jesuits wanted him for

the priesthood.

At age sixteen, Junior, as he was known in the family, graduated from Cristo

Rey with honors and without having felt the call to Holy Orders. He immedi-

ately became a Police Cadet, although you were supposed to be eighteen. Be-

fore the summer was over, the Society of Jesus reentered the picture.

Loyola University (Chicago) was prepared to offer Junior, based on his aca-

demic record at Cristo Rey, a full scholarship. This time his father and grand-

father disagreed. His father offered another quite irreverent opinion: that you

had to admire those tenacious bastards; they never give up when they’re trying

to grab some smart kid for their priesthood.

His grandfather disagreed, and suggested that Junior had two options.

One was to spend the next nearly four years in a gray cadet uniform riding

in the backseat of a patrol car, or filing crap in a precinct basement someplace—

he couldn’t even get into the academy until he was twenty years and six months

old—or he could spend that time getting a college education on the Jesuits’


For the next three years, Junior studied during the school year and returned

to the police cadet program in the summers. On his graduation, cum laude, he



immediately entered the police academy. Three months later, he was graduated

from there and—with most of the family watching—became a sworn officer

of the Chicago Police Department.

He had been on the job doing what rookies do for six months when Grand-

father Francis reentered the picture.

“Go federal,” Grandpa advised. “The pay is better. Maybe the U.S. Mar-

shals or even the Secret Service.”

To which Byron—no longer universally known as “Junior” after he made

good on a promise to knock his sister Ellen’s husband, Charley Mullroney, on

his ass the next time he called him that—replied that he’d already looked into

it, was thinking of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and going down that

road, was really thinking of getting a law degree.

He told his grandfather he’d talked to people at Loyola, and they not only

were going to let him in the law school but had arranged for him a job as a rent-

a-cop on campus. Christ knew he couldn’t go to college if he had to change

shifts on the job every three months.

Byron graduated, again with honors, and passed the bar examination on his

first try. By then he had just turned twenty-eight and had seen enough of the

FBI to decide that wasn’t for him. The Border Patrol looked interesting, but

then he met a guy from the Drug Enforcement Administration whom his

brother-in-law Charley Mullroney had been working with in Narcotics.

Stanley Wyskowski said Byron was just the kind of guy the DEA was

looking for. He’d been a cop, and he had a law degree, and he spoke passable


Actually, he spoke better than passable Spanish. He had the grammar down

pat because he’d had Latin his last two years at Saint Rose’s and his first two at

Cristo Rey, and then he’d had two years of Spanish at Cristo Rey—somebody

had tipped him that if you had Latin, Spanish was the easiest language—and

four more years of it at Loyola. And he had polished his colloquial Spanish with

a young lady named María González, with whom he’d had an on-and-off car-

nal relationship for several years when he was at Loyola.

Wyskowski said if Byron wanted, he’d ask his boss.

Byron J. Timmons, Jr., entered the Federal Service two weeks later, as a

GS-7. On his graduation from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

at Glynco, Georgia, he received both his credentials as a Special Agent of the

Drug Enforcement Administration and a promotion to GS-9, because of his

law degree.

He was initially assigned to Washington, D.C.—the DEA is part of the De-

partment of Homeland Security—where, he understood, they wanted to have


W . E . B . G R I F F I N

a look at him. Two months later, they offered him his choice of the Legal Sec-

tion (which carried an almost automatic promotion to GS-11 after two years),

or The Field.

He had seen what was going on in the Legal Department—pushing papers

held absolutely no appeal—so he chose The Field.

That wasn’t the answer they wanted.

They reminded him of the automatic promotion that came with the Legal

Section, and told him that the only vacancies in The Field were in El Paso, Los

Angeles, Miami, Mexico City, and Asunción, Paraguay. Timmons didn’t like the

sound of El Paso, Mexico City, or Los Angeles, and had only the vaguest idea

of where in hell Asunción, Paraguay, even was.

So, when he said “Miami,” he was not very surprised that they sent him to

Asunción, Paraguay. They were really pissed that he had turned down the

Legal Section—twice.

No regrets, though. He wanted to be a cop, not a lawyer preparing cases for

prosecution by the Justice Department.

Specifically, he wanted to be a drug cop.

In Byron’s mind, there wasn’t much difference between a guy who did Mur-

der One—roughly defined as with premeditation, or during the course of a

Class One Felony, like armed robbery—and some guy who got a kid started on

hard drugs. In both cases, a life was over.

If there was a difference, in Byron’s mind it was that the drug bastards were

the worse of the two. A murder victim, or some convenience store clerk, died

right there. Tough, but it was over quick. It usually took a long time for a drug

addict to die, and he almost always hooked a lot of other people before he did.

If that wasn’t multiple murder, what was?

Not to mention the pain a drug addict caused his family.

Another difference was that dealing in prohibited substances—even for the

clowns standing on a street corner peddling nickel bags of crack—paid a lot bet-

ter than sticking up a bank did.

And that was the problem—money. It was bad in the States, where entirely

too many cops went bad because they really couldn’t see the harm in looking

the other way for fifteen minutes in exchange for a year’s pay, and it was even

worse here.

Byron knew too much about the job to think that when he came to

Paraguay he personally was going to be able to shut off the flow of drugs, or

even to slow it down very much. But he thought that he could probably cost

the people moving the stuff a lot of money and maybe even send a few of them

to the slam.

He’d had some success—nothing that was going to see him named DEA



Agent of the Year, or anything like that—but enough to know that he was

earning his paycheck and making the bad guys hurt a little. Making them hurt

a little was better than not making them hurt at all.

And that was why he was pissed now that it looked like the goddamn High-

way Police were going to make him miss his plane.

He was going to Buenos Aires to see an Argentine cop he’d met. Truth

being stranger than fiction, an Irish Argentine cop by the name of Liam Duffy.

Duffy’s family had gone to Argentina at about the same time as Grandfather

Francis’s parents had gone to the States.

Duffy was a comandante (major) in the Gendarmería Nacional Argentina.

They wore brown uniforms, not blue, and looked more like soldiers than cops.

Most of the time they went around carrying 9mm submachine guns. But cops

they were. And from what Timmons had seen, far more honest cops than the

Policía Federal.

That was part of the good thing he had going with Liam Duffy. The other

part was that Duffy didn’t like drug people any more than he did.

Even before he had met Duffy, Timmons had pretty well figured out for

himself how the drugs were moved, and why. There had been briefings in Wash-

ington, of course, before they sent him to Asunción, but that had been pretty

much second- or third-hand information. And he had been briefed when he

got to the embassy in Asunción, although he’d come away from those briefings

with the idea that Rule One in the Suppression of the Drug Trade was We’re

guests in Paraguay, so don’t piss off the locals.

It hadn’t taken Timmons long to understand what was going on. Paraguay

was bordered by Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina. The drugs came from Bolivia,

where the cultivation of the coca plant was as common as the cultivation of corn

in Kansas. It was refined into cocaine in Bolivia. Some of the refined product

went to Brazil, where some was consumed and some exported. Most of it went

to—actually through—Paraguay to Argentina.

Although there was a substantial, and growing, market for cocaine in

Argentina—this explained Liam Duffy’s interest—most of the cocaine simply

changed hands in Argentina. The coke then was exported by its new owners

through the port of Buenos Aires, near downtown, and the international air-

port, Ezeiza, some twenty kilometers to the southwest, the bulk of it going to

the United States, but a good deal to Europe, and some even to Australia.

There were some imaginative ways of moving the cocaine, a crystalline

powder, across borders. These ranged from packing it in caskets—or body

cavities—of the deceased being returned home for burial to putting an ounce

or more in a latex condom, which was then tied, swallowed by a human

smuggler—or “mule”—and either regurgitated or defecated once across the


W . E . B . G R I F F I N

border. (Unless, of course, one or more of the condoms were to rupture en

route—which they often did—causing the mule severe toxicity . . . then death.)

Most of the drug, however, was commonly packed in plastic bags, one

kilogram—two point two pounds—of cocaine to a package.

These sometimes were not concealed or disguised at all, if the shippers were

confident the customs officials at the border had been adequately bribed. Or the

kilo bags were hidden in myriad ways—in the tires of cars or trucks, for exam-

ple, or packed in a crate with something legitimate—operative word myriad.

The only way to interdict a “worthwhile” shipment was to know when it

was to be made and/or the method of shipment. For example, that one hun-

dred kilos of cocaine were to be concealed in the spare tires of a Scandia

eighteen-wheeler of the Jorge Manso e Hijos truck line carrying bagged soy-

beans, which would cross the border at a certain crossing on a certain date.

This information could be obtained most commonly in one of two ways.

It could be bought. The trouble here was that the U.S. government was reluc-

tant to come up with enough money for this purpose and did so only rarely.

The Paraguayan government came up with no money for such a purpose.

Sometimes, however, there was money as the result of a successful

interdiction—any money over a reasonable expectation of a truck driver’s

expenses was considered to be as much contraband as any cocaine found—and

this was used.

The most common source of information, however, was to take someone

who had been apprehended moving drugs and turn him into a snitch. The

wheels of justice in Paraguay set a world standard for slow grinding. Getting

arraigned might take upward of a year. The wait for a trial was usually a period

longer than that. But when the sentence finally came down, it was pretty stiff.

Paraguay wanted the world to know it was doing its part in the war on the traf-

ficking of illegal drugs.

The people who owned the cocaine—who arranged its transport through

Paraguay into Argentina and who profited the most from the business—as a rule

never rode in the trucks or in the light aircraft that moved it over the border.

Thus, they didn’t get arrested. The most they ever lost was the shipment itself

and maybe the transport vehicle. So basically not much, considering that the

cocaine—worth a fortune in Miami or Buenos Aires or London or Brisbane—

was a cheap commodity until it actually got across the Argentine border.

What really burned the bad guys—far better than grabbing a hundred kilos

of cocaine every week—was grabbing the cash after the Argentine dealers paid

for it in Argentina. Even better: grabbing the cocaine and the money. That

really stung the bastards.



Timmons and Duffy were working on this. Step One was to find out how

and when a shipment would be made. Snitches gave Timmons this informa-

tion. Step Two was to pass it to Duffy.

The Gendarmería Nacional had authority all over Argentina. They could

show up at a Policía Federal roadblock and make sure the Federals did their job.

Or they could set up their own roadblocks to grab the cocaine and/or turn the

couriers into snitches.

With a little bit of luck, Timmons and Duffy believed, they could track the

cocaine until it changed hands, then grab both the merchandise and the money

the dealers in Argentina were using to pay for it.

The problem Timmons had with this was getting the information from the

snitches to Duffy without anyone hearing about it. It wasn’t much of a secret

that the bad guys had taps on both Timmons’s and Duffy’s telephones.

The only way for Timmons to get the information to Duffy without its

being compromised, and in time for Duffy to be able to use it, was to person-

ally take it to him.

Which, again, explained why Timmons was heartsick when he saw the

Highway Police roadblock on the road to the airport.

The information he had gathered with so much effort would be useless un-

less he could get it to Duffy in Buenos Aires tonight. If he missed his flight, the

next wasn’t until tomorrow morning. Before that plane left, the Scandia

eighteen-wheeler of the Jorge Manso e Hijos truck line, Argentine license plate

number DSD 6774, which had two hundred one-kilo bags of cocaine concealed

in bags of soybeans on the second pallet from the top, center row, rear, would

be lined up to get on the ferry that would carry it across the Río Paraguay—

the border—to Formosa.

And all Timmons’s work over the last seventeen days would be down the


What was particularly grating to Timmons was that he knew the moment

a Highway Policeman saw the diplomatic plates on his embassy Chevrolet Trail-

Blazer, the vehicle would be waved through the roadblock. The Highway Po-

lice had no authority to stop a car with CD plates, and no authority of any kind

over an accredited diplomat. The problem was to actually get up to the High-

way Policemen.

That had taken a long time, almost twenty precious minutes, but the line

of vehicles moved so that finally the TrailBlazer had worked its way to where

the Peugeot van sat with its door open.

The embassy vehicle with CD plates, however, didn’t get waved through.

Instead, two Highway Policemen approached.



. E . B . G R I F F I N

“Shit,” Timmons said.

César remained silent behind the wheel.

Timmons angrily took both his diplomatic passport and his diplomatic

carnet—a driver’s license-size plastic sealed card issued by the Paraguayan For-

eign Ministry identifying him as an accredited diplomat—and hurriedly held

them out the window.

“Diplomat, diplomat,” he said impatiently.

“Please step out of the car, Señor,” one of the Highway Policemen said.

“Didn’t you hear what I said?” Timmons demanded. Waving his diplomatic

credentials, he added, “Don’t you know what these are?”

“Step out of the car, please, Señor.”

One of the Highway Policemen now pointed the muzzle of his submachine

gun at Timmons.

Timmons told himself not to lose his temper. He got out of the TrailBlazer.

“Please take me to your officer,” he said politely.

The muzzle of the submachine gun now directed him to the open door of

the panel van.

He went to it. He ducked his head to get inside, and as he entered the van

he suddenly had the sensation of what felt like a bee sting in his buttocks.

Then everything went black.

One of the Highway Policemen pushed his body all the way into the van and

the door closed. The other Highway Policeman ordered Timmons’s driver out

from behind the wheel, handcuffed him, then forced him into the backseat.

Then he got behind the wheel and drove off toward the airport.

The Peugeot panel van followed.


Nuestra Pequeña Casa

Mayerling Country Club

Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

1645 31 August 2005

“Sergeant Kensington,” Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo said, “if you say

‘un-fucking-believable’ one more time, I’m going to have the sergeant major

wash your mouth out with soap.”

Sergeant Robert Kensington—a smallish, trim twenty-one-year-old—



turned from a huge flat-screen television screen mounted on the wall of the sit-

ting room and looked uneasily at Lieutenant Colonel Castillo, who was thirty-

six, blue-eyed, had a nice thick head of hair, and stood a shade over six feet tall

and one hundred ninety pounds.

Sergeant Major John K. Davidson, who was thirty-two and a little larger

than Lieutenant Colonel Castillo, looked at him, smiled, and said, “With all

possible respect, Colonel, sir, the sergeant is right. It is un-fucking-believable.”

“He’s got you there, Ace,” a nondescript man in his late fifties wearing a blue

denim shirt and brown corduroy trousers said, chuckling. “ ‘Un-fucking-

believable’ fits like a glove.”

His name was Edgar Delchamps, and though technically subordinate to the

lieutenant colonel, he was not particularly awed by Castillo. Men who have

spent more than thirty years in the clandestine service of the Central Intelligence

Agency tend not to be awed by thirty-six-year-old recently promoted light birds.

“Lester’s around here someplace,” Castillo said. “I don’t want Kensington

corrupting him any more than he already has.”

Delchamps, Davidson, Colonel Alfredo Munz, and Sándor Tor chuckled.

Munz, a blond-headed stocky man in his forties, until recently had been the

head of SIDE, which combines the functions of the Argentine versions of the

FBI and the CIA. He was of German heritage and fluent in that language and

several others.

Tor, a Hungarian, was director of security for the newspaper Budapester Tages

Zeitung. Before that, he had been an Inspector of Police in Budapest, and in

his youth had done a hitch in the French Foreign Legion.

“I cannot hear what that woman is saying over all this brilliant repartee,”

Eric Billy Kocian announced indignantly, in faintly accented English. The man-

aging director and editor-in-chief of the Budapester Tages Zeitung was a tall man

with a full head of silver hair who looked to be in his sixties. He was in fact

eighty-two years of age.

Delchamps made a megaphone with his hands and called loudly, clearly im-

plying that Kocian was deaf or senile, or both: “Billy, it looks like they’ve got a

little storm in New Orleans.”

Everybody laughed.

Kocian threw his hands up in disgust and said something obscene and un-

flattering in Hungarian.

But then the chuckles subsided and they all returned their attention to

the television.

In deference to Kocian, Munz, and Tor, they were watching Deutsche Welle ,

the German version, more or less, of Fox News. It was covering Hurricane

1 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Katrina in the Gulf Coast of the United States and had just reported, with some

stunning accompanying video, that eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded,

some parts of the port city under twenty feet of water, its entire population

forced to flee.

Castillo stared at the images of one of America’s major cities in complete

chaos, and at the collection onscreen of talking heads representing local, state,

and federal government officials—all unequivocally with their thumbs up their

collective asses while blaming one another for failure after failure—and heard

himself mutter, “Un-fucking-believable. . . .”

Not much in Nuestra Pequeña Casa was what it appeared to be. Starting with

the fact that Our Little House was in fact a very large house, bordering on a

mansion. It was in the upscale Mayerling Country Club in the Buenos Aires

suburb of Pilar.

It had been rented, furnished except for lightbulbs and linen, just over three

weeks before to a Señor Paul Sieno and his wife, Susanna. The owner believed

them to be a nice and affluent young couple from Mendoza. They had signed

a year’s lease for four thousand U.S. dollars a month, with the first and last

month due on signing, plus another two months’ up front for a security deposit.

The Sienos had paid the sixteen thousand in cash.

Cash payments of that size are not at all uncommon in Argentina, where

the government taxes every transaction paid by check and where almost no one

trusts the banks.

Both el Señor y la Señora Sieno were in fact agents of the Central Intelli-

gence Agency, and what they had really been after was a “safe house,” which is

usually defined within the intelligence community as a place nobody else knows

about where one may hide things and people.

Nuestra Pequeña Casa—the owner had named it—was ideal for this purpose.

The Mayerling Country Club, which is several kilometers off the Panamer-

icana Highway, about fifty kilometers north of the center of Buenos Aires, held

about one hundred houses very similar to Nuestra Pequeña Casa. Each sat

upon about a hectare (or about two and a half acres). It also held a Jack Nick-

laus golf course, five polo fields, stables, tennis courts, and a clubhouse with a

dining room that featured a thirty-foot-high ceiling and half a dozen Czecho-

slovakian crystal chandeliers suspended over a highly polished marble floor.

The entire country club was surrounded by a nine-foot-tall fence, topped

with razor wire, and equipped with motion-sensing devices. When triggered,

an alarm went off in the Edificio de Seguridad and floodlights came on where

the intrusion had been detected. Then members of the Mayerling Security


1 1

Force, armed with everything from semiautomatic pistols and shotguns to fully

automatic Uzis, rushed to the scene on foot, by auto, and in golf carts.

None of this had anything to do with intelligence, espionage, or even the

trade in illegal drugs, but rather with kidnapping. The kidnapping of well-to-

do men, their wives, offspring, parents—sometimes even their horses and

dogs—was Argentina’s second-largest cottage industry, so the wags said, larger

than all others except the teaching of the English language.

Just about all of the houses within the Mayerling Country Club were indi-

vidually fenced on three sides, most often by fences concealed in closely packed

pine trees. They, too, had motion-sensing devices.

Motion-sensing devices also prevented anyone from approaching the un-

fenced front of the houses without being detected.

Nuestra Pequeña Casa was for Mayerling not an unusually large house. It

had six bedrooms, all with bath; three other toilets with bidets; a library, a sit-

ting room, a dining room, a kitchen, servants’ quarters (for the housing of

four), a swimming pool, and, in the backyard near the pool, a quincho.

A quincho, Paul Sieno explained, was much like an American pool house,

except that it was equipped with a parrilla—a wood-fired grill—and was pri-

marily intended as a place to eat, more or less outdoors. It was an extremely

sturdy structure, built solidly of masonry, and had a rugged roof of mottled red

Spanish tiles. The front of the quincho had a deep verandah, which also was

covered by the tile roof, and a wall of sliding glass doors that overlooked the

pool and backyard and which served as the entrance from the verandah into the

main room of the building.

The group had moved from the big house out to the quincho.

Paul Sieno was kneeled down before the parrilla, which was built into one

wall of the cocina, or kitchen. He worked with great effort—and as yet not much

success—to get the wood that he had carefully arranged under the heavy black

iron grill to catch fire.

Susanna Sieno stood behind him, leaning against the polished marble coun-

tertop to the left of the parrilla, handing her husband sheets of newspaper for

use as tinder.

On the countertop, beside the stainless steel sink, was an impressively large

wooden platter piled high with an even more impressively large stack of a dozen

lomos, each filet mignon hand cut from tenderloins of beef to a thickness of two

inches. Nearby were the makings for side dishes of seasoned potatoes and

tossed salad.

In the adjoining main room of the quincho there was a brand-new flat-

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W . E . B . G R I F F I N

screen television mounted on a wall that was identical to the one in Nuestra

Pequeña Casa.

The DirecTV dish antenna on the quincho’s red tile roof was identical to

the one mounted on the big house. The television set in the quincho, however,

was hooked to a repeater connected to the DirecTV antenna on the big house.

This allowed for the antenna on the quincho roof to be aimed at an IntelSat

satellite in permanent orbit some 27,000 miles above the earth’s surface—and

thus to be part of a system that provided the safe house with instant encrypted

voice, visual, and data communication. It communicated with similar propri-

etary devices at the Office of Homeland Security in the Nebraska Avenue Com-

plex in Washington, D.C., and ones in what had at one time been the Post

Stockade at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was now the headquarters of Delta

Force and even more clandestine special operations forces.

Most of the group was sitting in teak deck chairs that they had pulled in-

side from the verandah.

The TV was now tuned to the English-language CNN, not because its

nonstop coverage of the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina was any better than

that of Deutsche Welle—it arguably was worse—but because DW was repeat-

ing ad nauseam the same footage and interviews. The on-air “talent”—both on

location and in the various news bureaus—had long ago stopped offering any

real reporting and had instead resorted to the basic equivalent of a live camera

simply airing the obvious. And, while it was only a matter of time before CNN’s

so-called in-depth coverage would begin to loop, at least for now the group was

seeing and hearing something somewhat different.

This same dynamic happened during the Desert Wars, Lieutenant C. G.

Castillo thought with more than a little disgust. Sticking a camera crew out in

the middle of a hot zone—with a clueless commentator, someone with no real un-

derstanding of what’s going on around them—is worse than there being no, quote,

reporting, unquote, at all.

Watching RPG rounds and tracers in a firefightor people looting a flooded

food store—without an educated source on screen to put what you’re seeing in con-

text of the big picture only serves to drive the hysteria.

It damn sure doesn’t help someone sitting in the comfort of their living room

better understand what the hell is really going on.

Castillo turned from the TV and glanced around the quincho.

Of the people watching CNN, three could—and in fact often did—pass as

Argentines. They were the Sienos (who now had the parrilla wood burning) and

a twenty-three-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, named Ricardo Solez, who

had come to Argentina as an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

All had mastered the Porteño accent of a Buenos Aires native.


1 3

Anthony J. “Tony” Santini, a special agent of the U.S. Secret Service, a

stocky and somewhat swarthy forty-two-year-old, could pass for a Porteño until

he had to say something, whereupon his accent usually gave him away.

None of the others watching the TV in the quincho even tried to pass

themselves off as Argentines.

Special Agent David W. Yung of the FBI, a thirty-two-year-old of Chi-

nese ancestry—who spoke Spanish and three other languages, none of them

Oriental—felt that his race made trying to fob himself off as an Argentine

almost a silly exercise.

The language skills of various others were rudimentary.

As Colonel Jacob D. “Jake” Torine, United States Air Force, put it, “It’s as

if the moment I get out of the States, a neon sign starts flashing over my head—

American! Throw rocks!

Inspector John J. Doherty of the FBI understood what Torine meant. Lieu-

tenant Colonel Castillo had once remarked, “Torine and Doherty look like

somebody called Central Casting and said, ‘Send us an airline pilot and an Irish

cop.’ ” Neither had taken offense.

One viewer of what Katrina was doing to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast

was in a category of his own.

Corporal Lester Bradley, United States Marine Corps, was not quite twenty.

He appeared to be about seventeen. He stood five feet five inches tall and

weighed a little under one hundred forty pounds. Looking at him now—attired

in a knit polo shirt, khaki trousers, and red and gold striped Nike sport shoes—

very few people would think of associating him with the military at all, much

less with the elite special operations.

The truth here was that Bradley, fresh from Parris Island boot camp, had

earned his corporal’s stripes as a “designated marksman” with the Marines on

the march to Baghdad. On his return to the United States, he had been assigned

to the USMC guard detachment at the American embassy in Buenos Aires,

where he mostly functioned as a clerk typist until the day he had been de-

tailed—as the man the gunny felt he could most easily spare—to drive a GMC

Yukon XL to Uruguay.

Three days after that, Bradley found himself part of a hastily organized

special operations mission during which he saved the life of then-Major

C. G. Castillo by using a borrowed sniper’s rifle to take out two of the bad guys

with head shots.

Bradley thus had learned too much about a very secret operation—and the

reasons for said operation—for him to be returned to the care of the gunny, who

could be counted on to demand a full account of where his young corporal had

been and what he had done. So Bradley next had been aboard the aircraft on

1 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

which Castillo and the body of Sergeant First Class Seymour Kranz—who had

been killed during the operation—returned to the United States.

Not knowing what to do with Bradley back in the States, Castillo had “put

him on ice” at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, the Special Forces training

base, until he could find a solution. Camp Mackall’s sergeant major, Jack David-

son, had taken one look at the boyish Marine, concluded that his assignment

to Mackall was a practical joke being played on Davidson by a Marine master

gunnery sergeant acquaintance, and put him to work pushing the keys on a


The first that Davidson learned of who Bradley really was—and that he had

saved the life of Castillo, with whom Davidson had been around the block many

times, most recently in Afghanistan—came when Lieutenant General Bruce J.

McNab showed up at Mackall to arrange for Bradley to attend Sergeant Kranz’s

funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

Davidson had also been around the block several times with General

McNab, and several times with McNab and Castillo together. He had not been

at all bashful to tell the general (a) that Castillo’s idea that Bradley could be

hidden at Mackall made about as much sense as suggesting a giraffe could

be hidden on the White House lawn, and (b) that if Charley was doing some-

thing interesting, it only made sense that Sergeant Major Davidson be assigned

to do it with him, as the general well knew how prone Charley, absent the wise

counsel of Sergeant Major Davidson, was to do things that made large waves,

and got everybody in trouble, and that this was not very likely to be changed

just because they’d just made Charley a light bird.

Shortly after the final rites of Sergeant Kranz at Arlington National Ceme-

tery, Sergeant Major Davidson and Corporal Bradley were en route to

Buenos Aires.

And shortly after going to Nuestra Pequeña Casa, while serving as the dri-

ver of a Renault Trafic van, Corporal Bradley found himself participating in an

unpleasant firefight in the basement garage of the Pilar Sheraton Hotel and

Convention Center, during which he took down one of the bad guys with a

Model 1911A1 Colt semiautomatic pistol and contributed to the demise of an-

other with the same .45-caliber weapon.

Following that, it was Castillo’s judgment that Corporal Bradley really de-

served to be formally assigned to the Office of Organizational Analysis.

He called the director of National Intelligence, who called the secretary of

defense, who called the secretary of the Navy, who directed the commandant

of the Marine Corps—“Just do it, don’t ask questions”—to issue the appropri-

ate orders:


1 5





JULY 25, 2005.

























1 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N























Natalie G. Cohen




1 7

The identification of the bodies in the Sheraton garage—and of two oth-

ers shortly thereafter in the Conrad Resort & Casino in Punta del Este,

Uruguay—pretty well “determined the identity of the terrorists.”

And, obviously, they had been “rendered harmless” as called for by the


This accomplishment, however, did not mean that the Office of Organiza-

tional Analysis now could be shut down, or that the Finding could be filed in

the Presidential Documents Not To Be Declassified For Fifty Years, or that the

OOA personnel could be returned whence they had come.

Just about the opposite was true.

The investigation had been going on in Nuestra Pequeña Casa for nearly

three weeks. To say that no end was in sight was a gross understatement.

The turning over of the rocks had revealed an astonishing number of ugly

worms of interest to the director of National Intelligence, the Department of

Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of State, and other gov-

ernmental agencies.

“What we have here isn’t an investigation,” Inspector Doherty, who was on

the staff of the director of the FBI and who had given the subject a good deal

of thought, said very seriously the night before at dinner, “it’s an investigation

to determine what has to be investigated.”

Doherty had reluctantly—another gross understatement—become part of

the investigation only after the President had personally ordered the FBI director

to loan the best man he had to OOA, not the senior FBI man who could be

most easily spared.

Edgar Delchamps, of the CIA, had replied, “You got it, Sherlock.”

Delchamps, too, had come to the OOA reluctantly. So reluctantly that

when transferred from his posting as the CIA station chief in Paris, he had re-

ported to Castillo only after he had stopped by CIA headquarters in Langley,

Virginia, to put in for retirement.

When Castillo found out about that, it had taken a personal call from the

director of National Intelligence, Ambassador Charles W. Montvale, to the di-

rector of the Central Intelligence Agency to get Delchamps to put off his re-

tirement “for the time being.” Montvale told the DCI that the President had

personally ordered that the OOA—meaning Delchamps—be given absolute ac-

cess to any intelligence the agency had gathered on any subject.

Doherty and Delchamps had not at first gotten along. Both were middle-

aged and set in their ways. Doherty’s way—which had seen him rise high in the

FBI hierarchy—was to scrupulously follow the book, never bending, much less

breaking, the law. Delchamps had spent most of his career operating clandes-

1 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

tinely, often using a fictitious name. There was no book for what he did, of

course, because the clandestine service does not— cannot—operate that way. So

far as Delchamps was concerned, the end really justified the means.

Yet surprisingly they had become close—even friends—in recent weeks,

largely because, Castillo had decided, they were older than everybody but Eric

Kocian. They regarded everyone else—including Castillo—as inexperienced

youngsters and were agreed that the President had erred in giving Castillo the

authority he had given him. (Castillo thought they were probably right.)

What Doherty the night before had called the “investigation to determine

what has to be investigated” now was just about over.

Castillo and Colonel Torine had flown the OOA’s private jet—a Gulfstream

III registered to the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund—down to Ar-

gentina to quietly ferry Delchamps, Doherty, and some of the others—not to

mention the results of the investigation, which now filled one small filing cab-

inet and a dozen computer external hard drives—back to Washington.

Eric Kocian and his two dogs would go with them, too. His notes about the

Iraqi Oil for Food scandal had provided keys to much of the information now

on the hard drives.

So far as Castillo, Delchamps, and Doherty were concerned, Kocian was

going to Washington to serve as a sort of living reference library as their inves-

tigation moved into the data banks of the FBI, the CIA, and other elements of

the intelligence community.

So far as Kocian was concerned, however, he was going to Washington be-

cause there was a direct Delta Airlines flight from Washington Dulles Interna-

tional Airport to Budapest. It would allow him to take his dogs. There was no

such flight from Buenos Aires.

Kocian owned two Bouvier des Flandres dogs, a male named Max and a

bitch named Mädchen. At one hundred–plus pounds, Max was time-and-a-half

the size of a large boxer. Mädchen was just a little smaller. There always had been

a Max in Kocian’s life since right after World War II, all of them named Max.

Mädchen was a recent addition, a gift from the Lorimer Charitable & Benev-

olent Fund, not necessarily as a pet for Kocian, but as a companion for Max.

Max’s alertness in Budapest had warned Castillo in time for him to be

able to use a suppressed Ruger MKII .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol to ren-

der harmless two men who had broken into his hotel room bent on his assas-


As Castillo later had put it—perhaps indelicately—to Edgar Delchamps, “I

don’t know how things are done in the spook world, but in the Army when

someone saves your ass, the least you can do for him is get him laid.”


1 9

It had been love at first sight between Max and Mädchen. But the playful

frolicking of two canines weighing more than two hundred pounds between

them had caused some serious damage to the furnishings of Nuestra Pequeña

Casa. Although they slept on the floor in Kocian’s bedroom, they mostly had

been banished to the backyard and to the quincho, where they had sort of

adopted Corporal Lester Bradley, sensing that not only did he like to kick a soc-

cer ball for them, but while manning the secure satellite communication device

had the time to do so.

Everyone was so used to seeing Max, Mädchen, and Lester together that hardly

anyone noticed when Lester went to Ricardo Solez, touched his shoulder, and

pointed to the secure radio. Solez nodded his understanding that if the radio

went off, he was to answer the call.

Solez thought that Lester and Max and Mädchen were leaving the quincho

so that the dogs could meet the call of nature and Lester would then kick the

soccer ball for them to retrieve. Both dogs could get a soccer ball in their mouths

with no more effort than lesser breeds had with a tennis ball.

The first person to sense that that had not been Corporal Bradley’s inten-

tion was Edgar Delchamps, who happened to glance out of the quincho into

the backyard.

“Hey, Ace!” he called to Lieutenant Colonel Castillo. “As much as I would

like to think the kid’s playing cops and robbers, I don’t think so.”

Castillo looked at him in confusion, then followed Delchamps’s nod toward

the backyard.

Corporal Bradley, holding a Model 1911A1 .45 ACP pistol in both hands,

was marching across the grass by the swimming pool. Ahead of Bradley was a

young man in a suit and tie who held his hands locked in the small of his neck.

Max walked on one side of them, showing his teeth, and Mädchen on the

other showing hers.

“What the hell?” Castillo exclaimed.

Sándor Tor, with almost amazing grace for his bulk, got out of his chair

and walked toward the door, brushing aside his suit jacket enough to uncover

a black SIG-Sauer 9mm P228 semiautomatic pistol in a skeleton holster on

his belt.

Castillo moved quickly to the drapes gathered at one side of the plateglass

window and snatched a 9mm Micro Uzi submachine gun from behind them.

He opened the door as they approached the verandah of the quincho.

“What’s up, Lester?” he asked.

2 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Corporal Bradley did not reply directly.

“On the porch,” he ordered the man. “Drop to your knees, and then get

on your stomach on the tiles.”

“Permission to speak, sir?” the young man in the suit asked.

“I told you to get on your stomach,” Bradley ordered as sternly as he could.

He did not have much of what is known as a “command voice.”

“I’d do what he says, pal,” Edgar Delchamps suggested, conversationally.

“Lester’s been known to use that .45, and Max likes to bite people.”

The young man dropped to his knees, then went flat to the tile of the

shaded verandah. Max leaned over him, showing his teeth. Mädchen sat on her

haunches across from him.

“I apprehended the intruder behind the pine trees, sir,” Bradley announced,

“as he was making his way toward the house.”

“He was inside the fence?” Castillo asked. “What happened to the mo-

tion detectors?”

“He was inside the fence, sir,” Bradley said. “Perhaps there is a malfunction

of the motion-detecting system.”

Tony Santini, carrying a Mini Uzi, and Ricardo Solez, holding a CAR-4,

came out of the quincho.

“Jesus Christ, Pegleg!” Solez exclaimed. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Right now I’m laying on my goddamn stomach,” the young man said.

“You know this guy, Ricardo?” Castillo asked.

“Yes, sir,” Solez said.

Castillo waited a moment, then asked, “Well?”

“He’s an assistant military attaché at the embassy in Asunción.”

“Permission to speak, sir?” the man on the tile said.

“See what he’s got in his pockets, Sándor,” Castillo ordered.

Sándor Tor bent over the man on the tile, took a wallet from his hip pocket,

and tossed it to Castillo. Then he rolled the man onto his back and went into

the pockets of his jacket. He came up with an American diplomatic passport

and tossed that to Castillo.

Castillo examined it.

“Sit, Max,” he ordered.

Max looked at him, head cocked.

“He’s probably not a bad guy,” Castillo added.

After a moment, as if he had considered, then accepted, what Castillo had

said, Max sat back on his haunches.

“Permission to speak, sir?” the man on the tile said.

“Why not?” Castillo said.


2 1

“Sir, I request to see Lieutenant Colonel Costello.”

“Nobody here by that name,” Castillo said. “Why don’t we talk about what

the hell you’re doing here?”

“Sir, I came to see Colonel Costello.”

“And if this Colonel Costello was here, what were you going to say to him?”

Castillo asked.

“I was going to ask him for his help.”

“Help about what?” Castillo asked, but before the man had a chance to open

his mouth, Castillo asked another question. “You sneaked in here to ask some-

body for help?”

“Sir, I didn’t know what name you were using for the safe house. And even

if I did, I didn’t think you would pass me through the gate to this place. So I

had to come in surreptitiously.”

“Son,” Edgar Delchamps asked, “how’d you get past the motion sensors on

the fence? Fences, plural?”

“Dry ice, sir. I froze the mercury switches.”

“Where’d you get the dry ice?”

“I bought it from a kid who delivers ice cream on a motorbike from the

Freddo’s ice cream store in the shopping mall.”

“And where’d you learn to use dry ice on mercury switches?”

“Fort Huachuca, sir.”

He pronounced that correctly, Castillo thought. “Wah-choo-kuh.”

“What were you doing at Huachuca?” Delchamps challenged.

“Going through the Intelligence School.”

“You’re an Army intelligence officer?”

“Yes, sir. First Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer, sir.”

Lorimer?” Castillo said. “Your name is Lorimer?”

“Yes, sir. Same as that UN guy who got himself whacked in Uruguay.”

“Your witness, Colonel,” Delchamps said, gesturing grandly.

“You’re Colonel Costello?” Lorimer asked.

“For the time being, I’ll ask the questions,” Castillo snapped, and was im-

mediately sorry. “You may get up, Lieutenant Lorimer.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“You can put the .45 away, Bradley,” Castillo said. He added, “But good job,


“Thank you, sir. The credit is due Max. He either detected unusual move-

ment in the pines or perhaps smelled him.”

“Take them inside the quincho, tell them ‘good dog!’, and give them each

a bone.”

2 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Yes, sir. Sir, when Max has too many bones—and he’s already had several

today—he suffers flatulence.”

“Use your good judgment, Lester.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Castillo had been watching Lorimer out of the corner of his eye, idly won-

dering why he was getting to his feet slowly and carefully. He saw that Lorimer

was smiling at Bradley, probably at the word “flatulence.”

Lorimer’s eyes met Castillo’s for a moment, and when Lorimer was half-

sitting on the table there, Castillo saw what had caused him to get to his feet

so slowly and carefully.

And why Ricardo had called him “Pegleg.”

Lorimer’s right trouser leg had been pulled up. Rising from his stockinged

ankle was a dully shining metal tube.

Titanium, Castillo thought. They now make those things out of titanium.

How do I know that?

“What happened to your leg?” Castillo asked gently.

“RPG,” Lorimer said.


“Afghanistan. We got bushwhacked on the way to Mazar. On High-

way A76.”

Castillo knew well the Mazar airfield—and, for that matter, Highway A76,

the road to it from Kabul. The next to last time he had been there, he had “bor-

rowed” a Black Hawk helicopter to make an extraction of the crew of another

Black Hawk that had been shot down. Far senior officers had reluctantly con-

cluded that the weather was so bad that making such an attempt would have

been suicidal.

The last time he’d been at Mazar was to board a USAF C-5 Galaxy for the

States, which carried him home with a vaguely phrased letter of reprimand for

“knowingly and flagrantly violating flight safety rules.”

The letter of reprimand was the compromise reached between several very

senior officers who wished to recommend him for the Distinguished Service

Cross—or perhaps even The Medal—and other very senior officers who wished

to bring the crazy Special Forces sonofabitch before a General Court-Martial

for willful disobedience of orders.

“How far up does that thing go?” Castillo asked.

“To the knee. Actually, the knee’s part of it. All titanium.”

“What were you doing in Afghanistan?”

“I thought I was winning their hearts and minds until this happened.”

“You were Special Forces?”


2 3

Lorimer nodded. “Was. Now I’m Intelligence. DIA.”

“How did that happen?”

“Well, for a while I thought I could do a Freddy Franks, but that

didn’t work.”

General Frederick M. Franks Jr., then an Army major, lost a leg to wounds

suffered in the Cambodian Incursion during the Vietnam War. He managed to

stay in the Army by proving he could pass any physical test required of any of-

ficer. He became both the first one-legged general since the Civil War and, as

a four-star general, the commander of ground forces in the First Desert War.

Franks served as an inspiration to all—particularly to amputees.

“Why not?”

“It hurt too much.”

“Okay. Who told you about this place?” Castillo asked.

“I asked around, sir.”

“I asked who, Lieutenant.”

Castillo looked at Ricardo Solez, who proclaimed his innocence by shak -

ing his head and wagging both hands palms outward.

Lorimer said, “A lot people, sir. I just put it together.”

“Among them Solez?”

“He was one of them, but he wouldn’t tell me anything. But he’s how I

found out where you were.”

Castillo glanced at Solez, who motioned to maintain his innocence, then

looked back at Lorimer.

“He told you where we were?” Castillo said.

Lorimer shook his head. “I followed him and that kid with the .45 out here

from the embassy.”

Solez and Bradley, who had been posted to the embassy before they

had been drafted by Castillo, had been assigned to make daily—sometimes

twice-daily—errand runs from Nuestra Pequeña Casa to the embassy specifi-

cally and to Buenos Aires generally. The theory was they were familiar faces and

would attract the least attention.

Castillo looked at Solez, whose face now showed pain.

Castillo was tempted to let it go, but changed his mind. Getting followed

was inexcusable.

“No rearview mirrors on the Trafic, right, Ricardo?” Castillo asked.

“Jesus Christ, Carlos, I’m sorry.”

His embarrassment—shame—was clear in his voice.

“He’s pretty good, Colonel,” Lorimer said. “He led me up and down every

back street between here and Palermo.”

2 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“But you’re better, right?”

“Yes, sir. I guess I am.”

“Okay. So you’re here. Why?”

“A friend of mine, a DEA agent, got kidnapped about a week ago. I need

some help to get him back. I figured you were the guy who could help, maybe

the only one,” Lorimer said.

“Why would you think that?”

“Because you got the bad guys who kidnapped Jack the Stack’s wife and

whacked him.”

“What if I told you I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

“Sir, I would expect you to say just that,” Lorimer said. “But, sir, with re-

spect, you better get used to the idea that the cat’s out of the bag. I even heard

of what went down and I’m pretty low down on the pay scale. And in Paraguay.”

Castillo looked at Delchamps.

“Write this down, Ace,” Delchamps said. “There’s no such thing as a secret.”

“Oh, shit!” Castillo said, and shook his head. Then he turned to Lorimer.

“Lieutenant Lorimer, I am Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo, Special Forces,

U.S. Army.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I inform you herewith that I am here operating on the authority of a Pres-

idential Finding. . . .”

“Yes, sir.”

“Close your mouth until I’m finished, Lieutenant. You are advised herewith

that each and every aspect of this operation is classified Top Secret Presidential.

From this moment on, you will not discuss with anyone what you think you

may have learned, or what you think you may have surmised, about anything

connected with this operation. That includes the names of personnel, and the

location of personnel or facilities, and what I or anyone connected with this op-

eration may or may not have done. Any breach of these instructions will result

in your trial by General Court-Martial—at which, trust me, you will be found

guilty—and being placed in solitary confinement at probably Leavenworth

until the details of this operation are no longer of interest to anyone. You run

off at the mouth, and you’ll wish the RPG had got all of you. Got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

He’s got it. His face is white. And I feel like a shit.

“You heard what he said, Ace, about the cat being out of the bag?”

Delchamps asked, but it sounded to Castillo like a statement.

“Edgar, butt out,” Castillo said.

“I was thinking about collateral damage,” Delchamps said. “Who’s he been


2 5

talking to? Which of them has been running at the mouth? What are you going

to do about shutting them up?”

There I go again, underestimating Delchamps!

“Let’s go to the house,” Castillo said, gesturing. “You, Ed, and Tony and—

somebody go inside and get Sieno.”

“Which one, Colonel?” Davidson asked.

“Both of them,” Castillo ordered. “And, Jack, sit on Lieutenant Lorimer

here. If he even looks like he’s thinking of taking off, shoot him in his good leg.”

There were two suites of rooms on the second floor of Nuestra Pequeña Casa,

each containing a large bedroom, a walk-in-closet, and a bathroom. The Sienos

occupied the larger of the two. Castillo had taken the slightly smaller one

for himself.

Castillo’s bedroom had one chair—at a dressing table—and a chaise lounge.

Susanna Sieno—a trim, pale-freckled-skin redhead who did not look like what

came to mind when “an officer of the clandestine service of the CIA” was

said—took the dressing table chair. Delchamps and Paul Sieno sat side by side

on the chaise lounge. Solez wordlessly asked permission to sit on the edge of

the bed. When Castillo nodded, and he had, Tony Santini sat beside Solez.

Castillo leaned against the wall by the door, and after a moment said, “The

word that comes to mind is ‘compromised’ . . . goddammit!”

“It happens, Ace,” Delchamps said.

“Okay, we shut down. We were going to the States anyway in a couple of

days. Now we go now.”

There were nods of agreement.

“I’d love to know how this happened,” Castillo said.

“I’d say Uruguay,” Susanna Sieno said.

Castillo looked at her, then made a come on gesture.

“The OK Corral shoot-out took place there,” she explained. “And you

jerked Dave Yung and Julio Artigas out of the embassy, which was sure to cause

gossip in the embassy, and then they found Howard Kennedy’s body in the Con-

rad in Punta del Este. . . .”

“What’s that got to with this Lieutenant Lorimer in Paraguay?” Castillo


“The spooks and the cops in Asunción find a lot of reasons to, quote, con-

fer, close quote, with the spooks and the cops in Montevideo,” she said. “Like

the dentists who go to Hawaii for two weeks, all tax-deductible, to confer for

two hours on how to drill a molar with caries.”

2 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Delchamps chuckled.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Castillo said.

“I think Susanna is onto it, Ace,” Delchamps said. “I’ll put it in soldier terms

for you. You know what R&R is, right?”

Castillo nodded. “Rest and Recuperation.”

“Sometimes known as I & I, for Intercourse and Intoxication,” Delchamps

went on. “And we know how every second lieutenant is required to memo-

rize, ‘If indiscretions you must have, have them a hundred miles from the

flagpole.’ ”

Castillo smiled. “Okay.”

“I don’t know anything about this, of course,” Susanna Sieno said, “but my

husband, who as far as I know never lies to me, says that healthy young men

not lucky enough to be accompanied by their wives on an assignment to some-

place like Asunción have unsatisfied physical desires. . . .”

“When you were in short pants, Ace, and I was in Moscow,” Delchamps

said, “I used to confer with my professional associates in Vienna every couple

of months. It wasn’t smart to accept the female companionship offered to horny

young spooks by the KGB in Moscow. Getting the picture, or do I have to be

more graphic and make you blush?”

“I’m getting the picture,” Castillo said.

“So try this scenario on for size,” Susanna Sieno said. “Agent X, of the firm,

or the DIA, or the DEA, or the FBI, checks in with his peers at the embassy in

Montevideo. This satisfies the requirements of his temporary-duty orders. He

spends an hour in the embassy, and then it’s off to the sandy beaches and the

bikini-clad maidens of Punta del Este. So Agent X asks, ‘Well, what’s new,


“And Willy says, ‘Nothing much here, but you heard about Jack the Stack

Masterson getting whacked in front of his wife in Buenos Aires?’

“And Agent X says, ‘Yeah, what was that all about?’

“And Willy says, ‘God only knows, but what’s interesting is that a Wash-

ington hotshot—I don’t know this, but I heard that he’s an Army officer sent

by the President—has taken over the investigation.’

“So Agent X goes back to Asunción and tells this interesting story to the

boys. And then Agent Y goes on R&R to Montevideo.

“ ‘Willy, tell me about Jack the Stack’s murder and the hotshot.’

“To which Willy replies, ‘I don’t know much, but it’s getting interesting.

First, Dave Yung, one the FBI guys, gets jerked out of here and onto a plane

for Washington. No explanation. And then, two days ago, right after Yung

mysteriously disappeared, they find an American, who worked for the UN, and


2 7

six guys all dressed like Ninjas, all dead at an estancia named—would you be-

lieve it?— Shangri-La. Nobody has a clue what that was all about.’

“So Agent Y, his physical desires satisfied, goes back to Asunción and tells

his pal, Agent Z, what he heard in Montevideo. Agent Z then takes his R&R

in Montevideo, where he asks Willy—or Tom, Dick, and Harry—‘Tell me

more about the six dead Ninjas and the UN guy.’

“ ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ he’s told. ‘Turns out the dead American was a

drug dealer and Jack the Stack’s brother-in-law. There’s a very interesting rumor

that a special operations team, probably run by the hotshot—he’s an Army of-

ficer by the name of Costello; we found that out—whacked the Ninjas and

maybe also the drug guy—his name was Lorimer—and then they jerked an-

other FBI guy, Artigas, out of here. No explanation.’ ”

Susanna paused.

“End of scenario,” she said after a moment.

“Good scenario,” Castillo said.

“These are all bright, clever guys, Charley,” she said. “Trained investigators.”

“With diarrhea of the mouth,” Castillo said.

“Nobody told them all this was Top Secret Presidential,” Sieno said. “Call

it shop talk.”

“No excuse,” Castillo said.

“It wasn’t as if they were running off at the mouth in a bar,” Delchamps said.

“These guys were swapping gossip with people they knew had the same secu-

rity clearances they did. Arguably, their sharing of such information could hold

a kernel that would prove to be a missing piece of a puzzle they were working,

one they otherwise would not have had. . . .”

“That’s not an excuse, Ed, and you know it,” Castillo said.

“I didn’t say it was right, Ace. I said I think it explains what happened. I

think Susanna’s right on the money. And it explains the young man with the

titanium leg coming here. His pal got snatched and now he’s desperate. . . .”

“I didn’t hear about that,” Susanna said.

“What he said was his pal, a DEA agent, was snatched a week ago,”

Delchamps explained. “And, though he didn’t say this, I’ll bet nobody in

Paraguay is doing anything at all to get him back that might annoy the host gov-

ernment in any way. So he came looking for John Wayne here.”

“So the question then becomes ‘What do we do about it?’ ”

“About getting the DEA guy back?” Delchamps asked.

“The DEA guy is not my problem,” Castillo said.

“No, he’s not,” Delchamps said. “Write that down.”

Castillo flashed him a cold look.

2 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning for a moment there, Ace, I thought you were starting to think

you really are John Wayne, flitting around the world righting wrongs,”

Delchamps said.

“My primary concern is making sure this operation isn’t compromised any

more than it already is,” Castillo said.

“How are you going to do that?”

“Well, first we’re going to get out of here. There’s no reason we can’t move

it to the Nebraska Avenue Complex. Or is there?”

Delchamps shook his head.

“The Sienos, Tony, and Alex Darby will be here. Plus Bob Howell in Mon-

tevideo,” Delchamps said. “They can handle anything that comes up with re-

gard to this . . .” He gestured in the direction of the quincho.

Castillo nodded. Darby was the CIA station chief in Buenos Aires and

Howell his counterpart in Montevideo.

“But what are you going to do about the guy downstairs?” Tony Santini

asked. “You can’t trust him to keep his mouth shut.”

“Particularly since Charley’s not going to rescue his pal from the bad guys,”

Susanna said.

“He goes with us,” Castillo said. “Unless somebody’s got a better idea?”

“Tony, who do you know in the embassy in Asunción?” Delchamps asked.

“I’ve been up there, of course,” Santini said. “But I don’t have any pals

there, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“You’re not alone,” Susanna said.

Castillo and Delchamps looked at her. When she didn’t respond, Delchamps

asked, “Who’s the station chief?”

“His name is White,” Paul Sieno said. “Robert J. White.”

Delchamps looked thoughtful a moment, then shook his head.

Susanna said: “He can’t understand why someone like himself, who has

kissed all the appropriate buttocks in Langley for years, gets assigned to Asun-

ción when troublemakers like Paul and Alex and me got to go to Buenos Aires.”

“What about the military attaché?” Castillo asked.

“He and the station chief are great pals,” Santini said. “I don’t think talk-

ing to them would work, Charley.”

“And I don’t want to go to the ambassador there, or involve Silvio any more

than I already have,” Castillo said, almost thoughtfully. “If this thing blows up

in our faces, the less he knows the better.”

Juan Manuel Silvio was the United States Ambassador to Argentina. He had

put his career at risk to help Castillo to carry out the Presidential Finding.

“So?” Delchamps asked.


2 9

“So, I guess I have to go to the other ambassador.”

The other ambassador was the Honorable Charles W. Montvale, the former

deputy secretary of State, former secretary of the Treasury, and former ambas-

sador to the European Union. And now the director of National Intelligence.

Castillo shook his head and said, “I now know how Lee felt at Appomat-

tox Court House when he said, ‘I would rather face a thousand deaths, but now

I must go and treat with General Grant.’ ”

“Is he really that bad, Charley?” Susanna asked.

“Right now, Susie, I feel like a small white mouse about to be put into the

cobra’s cage,” Castillo said.

He pushed himself away from the wall, walked to the bed, and gestured to

Solez to give up his seat.

“You want some privacy, Ace?” Delchamps said.

“No. I want everybody to hear this,” Castillo said, sat down on the bed,

and punched the SPEAKER PHONE button on what looked like an ordinary


“Corporal Bradley speaking, sir,” Lester’s voice came over the speaker.

“Is the Local Secure LED lit, Lester?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get Major Miller on here, secure.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Ten seconds later, a male voice came very clearly over the speaker.

“And how are things down in Buenos Aires on this miserable, blistering,

humid afternoon in our beloved nation’s capital?”

“Verify secure,” Bradley’s voice piped.

“Ah, the pride of the Marine Corps! The little green light is glowing

brightly, Lester.”

“Colonel, the line is secure. I believe Major Miller is the party answering.”

“Thank you, Bradley,” Castillo said. “Hey, Dick!”

A sus órdenes, mi coronel,” Miller said.

“Get Agnes on an extension, and then patch me through secure to the

White House.”

“I don’t like the tone of your voice,” Miller said, seriously. “Hold one,


Twenty seconds later, a female voice announced, “White House.”

“You on, Agnes?” Castillo asked.

“Uh-huh,” Mrs. Agnes Forbison, the deputy chief for administration of

the Office of Organizational Analysis, said.

“You and Dick stay on the line,” Castillo said. “Don’t record or take notes,

but pay attention.”

3 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Why do I think I know what you’re going to say next?” Agnes Forbison


“White House,” the female operator repeated.

“You’re prescient, Agnes,” Castillo said, and then, “Operator, this is Colonel

Castillo. Will you get me Ambassador Montvale on a secure line, please?”

“Hold one, Colonel. It may take a moment. He’s in the mountains with

the boss.”

Oh, shit!

Ten seconds later, a male voice came on.

“Ambassador Montvale’s line.”

“Colonel Castillo for Ambassador Montvale,” the White House operator

said. “The line is secure.”

“The ambassador is with the President. I’m not sure he can be disturbed.”

“Is that Mr. Ellsworth?” Castillo asked.

Truman C. Ellsworth had risen high in government service as Ambassador

Montvale’s trusted deputy. He was not an admirer of Lieutenant Colonel

Castillo, whom he viewed as a threat to Montvale.

“Good afternoon, Colonel,” Ellsworth said in his somewhat nasal voice.

“I have to speak to the ambassador. Your call, Mr. Ellsworth, as to if he can

be interrupted when he’s with the President.”

There was no reply, but in five seconds another male voice, one somewhat

impatient, came over the speakers.


Ellsworth, you sonofabitch!

“This is Castillo, Mr. President. Sorry to bother you, sir. I was trying to get

the ambassador.”

“My line rang,” the President said, and then corrected himself. “Flashed.

How are you, Charley?”

“Very well, thank you, sir.”

“You’re in Argentina, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What kind of television do you get down there?”

“We’ve been watching Fox and Deutsche Welle, Mr. President.”

“So you know what’s going on in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We’re watching. Hard to believe, isn’t it?”

Un-fucking-believable, sir.

“Yes, Mr. President, it is.”

“I want to see you as soon as you get back up here, Charley. When is that

going to be?”


3 1

“Probably late tomorrow, sir.”

“Okay. I’ll see you then. Unless I’m down there overseeing this disaster. You

find me, either way.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Charles,” Castillo heard the President say, “it’s Charley for you.”

Ambassador Montvale came on the line a moment later.

“Good to hear from you, Colonel,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“Buy Mr. Ellsworth a new pair of glasses.”

“Excuse me?”

“I can think of no reason but fuzzy eyesight for his pushing the President’s

button when he knew I wanted to talk to you, can you?”

“I’m sure that it was inadvertent.”

“Oh, me too,” Castillo said, sarcastically. “I can’t imagine him doing it on

purpose, hoping it would cause the President to be annoyed with me. It just

has to be his glasses.”

“What can I do for you, Charley?” Montvale asked, his annoyance clear in

his voice.

“There’s a risk of compromise down here that I want to stop before it goes

any further.”

“At this late date?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What needs to be done?”

“Two things. First, please call the station chief in Paraguay and tell him that

Alex Darby is coming to see him and will speak with your authority.”

“My authority about what?”

“To tell his people to stop guessing between them what happened in

Uruguay and here, and stop talking about it, period.”

“Should I call the ambassador there?”

“Let’s leave him out of it, if we can.”

“Your call. But forewarned is forearmed, as you know.”

“And then call Fort Meade and have the DIA immediately transfer First

Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer, an assistant military attaché at the embassy in

Asunción, to OOA.”

“What’s that about?”

“He was clever enough to learn my name and find the safe house. I don’t

want to leave him here.”

“A troublemaker, in other words?”

“Mr. Ambassador, he’s done nothing but what I would have done in

his shoes.”

“Why don’t I find that comforting, do you suppose?”

3 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo ignored the response.

“We’re shutting down here,” Castillo went on, “just to be safe. We’re just

about finished here anyway. We ought to be in Washington sometime late to-

morrow. I’m going to bring Lorimer with us.”

“Come see me when you get here.”

“Yes, sir. Of course.”

“I’ll get right on this.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Castillo waited until the White House operator, detecting that the tele -

phone in Camp David had been hung up, asked, “Are you through, Colonel?”

“Break it down, please, thank you,” Castillo said, and then, after a moment,

“You heard that, Agnes? Dick?”

“Why do I think Mr. Ellsworth doesn’t like you?” Agnes asked.

“With a little bit of luck, I can stop this before it gets any worse,” Castillo

said. “But I wanted you to have a heads-up if it goes wrong. I’ll give you a call

when we’re a couple hours out of Baltimore. We’re going to need three Yukons.”

“They’ll be there,” Agnes said.

“Where do we live now, Dick?”

“I was about to call you about that,” Miller said. “You know West Boule-

vard Drive in Alexandria?”

“Maybe. I think so.”

“Agnes knows a real estate guy, and he put her onto a place at 7200 West

Boulevard Drive. An old couple lived there, she died, and then a month later,

three months ago, he did. Their kids didn’t want it, and they want the money

quick. They went through it and took out the valuable stuff, but what’s left

is nice.”

“And the house?”

“You’ll like everything about it but the price, boss,” Agnes said.

“Which is how much? And why will I like it?”

“Right now you are renting it, furnished, for ten thousand a month, with

an option to buy at $2,950,000 with the furniture, and I don’t really know how

much without.”

“Done deal?”

“You told Dick to get you out of the Monica Lewinsky Motel right now,

and yesterday would be better. Yeah, it’s a done deal. I gave them a check two

hours ago,” Agnes said.

“On my account, I hope? I don’t want the Lorimer Benevolent & Charita-

ble Trust involved in this.”

“You’re paying for it,” Agnes said. “But on that subject, we just got confir-

mation of that substantial deposit to the trust we’ve been expecting.”


3 3

“Well, presuming we can keep that a secret, that’s good news. Can I go to

this place straight from the airport? And can I stash Lieutenant Lorimer there

until I figure out what to do with him?”

“You can go there from the airport,” Agnes said. “But there’s no sheets or

towels, food, etcetera. And yes, you can take somebody there. Six bedrooms,

six baths. And it’s off the road; nobody can look into the windows from the

street. I told them to get a radio in there tomorrow, but it will probably be a

couple of days before you have a secure White House telephone.”

“Dick, can you get our stuff out of the Mayflower and over there before I

get there? And stop by Sam’s Club or someplace and buy sheets, etcetera, and

food? Charge that to the Trust.”

“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir. Dare I to presume that was an invitation to share your

new quarters?”

“Yeah, but no guests of the opposite sex above the first floor,” Castillo said.

“We are going to be paragons of virtue in our new home.”

Agnes laughed.

“That I’ll have to see,” she said.

Castillo had a new thought: “Who’s going to take care of this place?”

“That’s another problem I’m working on,” Agnes said. “You’re going to

need a housekeeper and a yardman. At least. Dick said maybe we could put an

ad in the Army Times and see if we could find a retired sergeant and his wife.

Maybe they’d have security clearances.”

“What would I do without you, Agnes?”

“I shudder to consider the possibility,” she said.

“Unless you’ve got something else, we’ll see you tomorrow,” Castillo


“Can’t think of anything that won’t wait,” she said.

When it became evident that Miller wasn’t going to say anything, Castillo

ordered, “Break it down, Lester.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Castillo hung up the phone.

“Okay,” he said, “in the immortal words of General George S. Patton, let’s

saddle up and get this show on the road.”

“I don’t think Patton said that, Ace,” Edgar Delchamps said.

“If he didn’t, he should have,” Castillo said.

“What about the steaks?” Susanna Sieno said.

“Fire should be ready about now,” Paul Sieno added.

Castillo considered that a moment, then said, “Good idea, Susanna. ‘An

Army marches on its stomach.’ I don’t know if Patton said that or not. And I

don’t care—I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”



29.88 Degrees North Latitude

86.39 Degrees West Longitude

Over the Gulf of Mexico

1750 1 September 2005

They had gone wheels-up at Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires a few min-

utes after six that morning. They’d flown diagonally across South America to

Quito, Ecuador, where they had taken on fuel and had lunch. From Quito,

they’d flown north, passing over Panama into the Gulf of Mexico, skirted

around the western tip of Cuba, and then flown almost straight north to the

Panhandle of Florida.

The flight plan they filed gave Hurlburt Field, near Destin, Florida, as their

destination. Hurlburt was headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations

Command. Far fewer questions, Jake Torine had suggested, would be asked

there than anywhere else, and even if questions were asked, Hurlburt had in-

stant communication with the Special Operations Command at MacDill Air

Force Base in Tampa, Florida, where they could be quickly—and, as impor-

tant, quietly—answered.

It now looked as if that logical plan wasn’t going to work.

“Aircraft calling Hurlburt Approach Control, this is Eglin Approach.”

“Uh-oh,” Castillo said, and then triggering his mike, replied, “Eglin Ap-

proach Control, Gulfstream Three Seven Nine.”

“Gulfstream Three Seven Nine, be advised that Hurlburt Field is closed to

all traffic. Acknowledge.”

Jake Torine made an impatient gesture for Castillo to take control of the


“Eglin, Three Seven Nine, this aircraft is in the service of the United States

government. Colonel Jacob Torine, USAF, is pilot in command. We wish to

land at Hurlburt.”

“Sir, Katrina knocked Hurlburt out.”

Castillo and Torine exchanged What the hell? glances.




“Okay,” Torine replied. “Turning on transponder at this time. We are approx-

imately a hundred miles south of your station. Let me know when you have us.”

Fifteen seconds later, Eglin Approach Control reported, “Three Seven Nine,

I have you at flight level 30, 450 knots, approximately nine five miles south.”

“Okay, Eglin Approach. Give me approach and landing, please.”

“Three Seven Nine, be advised that Eglin is closed to all but emergency


“Son, did you hear what I said about this aircraft being in government


“Yes, sir. Do you wish to declare an emergency at this time?”

Castillo triggered his microphone.

“Eglin,” he said, “is Cairns Army Airfield open?”

“Three Seven Nine, I believe Cairns is open, but be advised it is closed to

civilian traffic.”

“Thank you, Eglin,” Castillo said. “Three Seven Nine is not, repeat not, de-

claring an emergency at this time.”

He turned to Torine.

“Jake, if you’ll take it and steer about thirty-five degrees, I’ll see if I can find

the approach charts to Cairns.”

“I gather, first officer, that you have been to this place before?”

“Once or twice, pilot in command, sir,” Castillo said, as he began rum-

maging through his Jeppesen case.



Base Operations

Cairns Army Airfield

The Army Aviation Center

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1145 2 February 1992

Lieutenant Colonel F. Mason Edmonds, Aviation—a starting-to-get-

a-little-chubby thirty-nine-year-old who sported a bushy mustache—stood be-

hind one of the double plateglass doors of Base Operations, looking out at the


On the wall behind him was an oil portrait of Major General Bogardus S.

3 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Cairns, for whom the airfield was named. General Cairns, a West Pointer and

at the time the commanding general of Fort Rucker, had crashed to his death

in an H-13 Sioux helicopter on 9 December 1958. There was an unpleasant

story that the crash had been due to General Cairns’s failure to turn on his air-

craft’s pitot heat.

True or not, Colonel Edmonds did not like the story. It tended to de-

tract from the positive image of Army Aviation, and Colonel Edmonds con-

sidered himself to be probably the most important guardian of that image.

He was the information officer of the Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker,


A year before, the fact that Colonel Edmonds had been granted a bachelor

of fine arts degree in journalism by Temple University had come to light when

personnel officers in the Pentagon were reviewing his records to see what could

be done with him now that some sort of unpronounceable inner-ear malady had

caused him to fail his annual flight physical examination and he could no longer

be assigned to flight duty.

Finding a round peg for the round hole had pleased both the personnel of-

ficers and Colonel Edmonds. He had been afraid, now that he was grounded,

that he would be assigned to some maintenance billet, or some supply billet,

or wind up in some other nothing assignment, like dependent housing officer.

Being the information officer for the Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker

was a horse of an entirely different hue. He had always believed he had a flair

for journalism and the written word, and had often wondered if he had made

the right decision in staying in the Army after his compulsory-after-ROTC

five-year initial tour. He could have gotten out and tried his hand as a journalist.

Or perhaps even as a novelist.

His experience since he’d become the IO had confirmed his opinion of his

ability as a journalist. Surprising most his staff—made up of half civilian, half

military—instead of just sitting behind his desk supervising things and re-

viewing press releases to make sure they reflected well on Army Aviation, he had

gotten right down to his new profession and gotten his hands dirty.

That was to say, he took it upon himself to write some of the stories that

would be published in The Army Flier, the base newspaper, or sent out as press

releases. Only the important stories, of course, not the run-of-the-mill pieces.

He was on such a yarn today, one that he intended to run on page one of

The Army Flier, and one he was reasonably sure would be printed in newspa-

pers across the land. In his judgment, it had just the right mixture of human

interest, military history, and a little good old-fashioned emotion. And, of

course, it could not help but burnish the image of Army Aviation and indeed

the Army itself.


3 7

A sergeant walked up to him.


Edmonds turned to look at him and nodded.

“Colonel, that Mohawk you’ve been looking for just turned on final.”

“And it will park on the tarmac here?”

“Yes, sir. It’s a Blue Flight aircraft, Colonel. They always park here.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.”

“Yes, sir.”

Blue Flight was the name assigned to a special function of the Aviation

School’s flight training program. If, for example, it was determined for some

reason that a nonflying field-grade officer—sometimes a major, most often a

lieutenant colonel—needed to learn how to fly, he was sent to Rucker and as-

signed to Blue Flight.

He—or she, as the case might be—was then subjected to what amounted

to a cram course in flying.

This was not to suggest that the course of instruction was less thorough in

any way than the regular flight training programs of the Aviation School. If any-

thing, Blue Flight instruction—the best instructors were assigned temporarily

to Blue Flight as needed—might just be a little better than that offered by

the school.

As Colonel Edmonds thought of it, there were several factors driving the

philosophy of Blue Flight instruction. High among them was the realization

that it was in the Army’s interest to send a senior officer student back as a fully

qualified pilot to whatever assignment had necessitated that he or she become

a pilot as quickly as possible.

Further, if the Army felt an officer in midcareer needed to be a pilot, it made

little sense to send them to Rucker only to have them fail the course of in-

struction. With this in mind, Blue Flight students were tutored, rather than sim-

ply taught. It was in the Army’s interest that they earn their wings.

While most Blue Flight students were majors or lieutenant colonels, there were

exceptions at both ends of the rank hierarchy. Most of these officers were colonels,

but there was—far less commonly—the occasional captain or even lieutenant.

In the case of the junior officers, they were most often aides-de-camp to

general officers who were already qualified rotary-wing aviators. They were as-

signed to Blue Flight for transition into fixed-wing aircraft. It made sense to

have an aide-de-camp who could fly his general in both a helicopter and in the

C-12 Huron, a twin turboprop, used to fly senior officers around.

“Huron” was the Army’s name for the Beechcraft Super King Air. It annoyed

Colonel Edmonds that Army Aviators almost invariably called the aircraft the

King Air rather than the Huron, but he couldn’t do much about it except en-

3 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

sure that the term “King Air” never appeared in news stories emanating from

his office.

Such a junior officer—this one a lieutenant, a general officer’s aide-de-camp

sent to Blue Flight for transition training into the C-12 Huron—was to be the

subject of the story Colonel Edmonds planned to write today.

Colonel Edmonds was more than a little annoyed that he had had to dig

up the story himself. He should have been told, not have had to hear a rumor

and then run down the rumor.

He had happened to mention this to the post commander, when he sug-

gested to the general that if he were to release a photograph of the general

standing together with the lieutenant before a building named for the lieu-

tenant’s father, it would more than likely be printed widely and reflect well upon

Army Aviation and the Army itself.

Two months before, Colonel Edmonds had thought he was onto another

story, one just as good, perhaps, as the one he was onto today. That one, how-

ever, hadn’t worked out.

What had happened was that Colonel Edmonds had seen a familiar name

on the bronze dedicatory plaque of the building. He had inquired of Brigadier

General Harold F. Wilson, deputy commander of the Army Aviation Center

and Fort Rucker, if there was any connection between himself and Second

Lieutenant H. F. Wilson, whose name was on the dedicatory plaque.

It had been too much to hope for, and asking General Wilson had been

a mistake.

“Colonel, I have been asked that question many times before,” the general

had said. “I will tell you what I have told everyone else who’s asked it: Don’t

ask it again, and whenever you hear that rumor someplace else, repeat this con-

versation of ours.”

Obviously, General Wilson, himself a highly decorated Army Aviator, was

anxious not to bask in the reflected glory of another hero who happened to have

a similar name.

With that encounter with General Wilson in mind—and knowing the

odds were that General Wilson would not be enthusiastic about what he had

in mind—Colonel Edmonds had taken his idea directly to Major General

Charles M. Augustus, Jr., the commanding general of the Army Aviation Cen-

ter and Fort Rucker.

General Augustus, not very enthusiastically, agreed that it was a good idea,

and told Edmonds to set it up. But he didn’t respond to Edmonds’s complaint

that he had not been advised, as he should have been, that the lieutenant was

a member of Blue Flight.


3 9

Edmonds further suspected that the Blue Flight people were either unaware

of what the lieutenant was doing or didn’t care.

When he called Blue Flight to ask that the lieutenant be directed to report

to him at his office, in Class A uniform at 1300, they said that might be a

little difficult, as the lieutenant was involved in a cross-country training

flight in the Mohawk under simulated instrument conditions, and that he

might be back at Cairns a little before noon, and then again he might not. No


Like the C-12 Huron, the Grumman Mohawk also was a twin-turboprop

aircraft, but not a light transport designed to move senior officers in comfort

from one place to another. It was, instead, designed as an electronic surveillance

aircraft, normally assigned to military intelligence units. The only people it

carried were its two pilots.

The military intelligence connection gave it a certain élan with Army Avi-

ators, as did the fact that it was the fastest airplane in the inventory. The pilots

assigned to fly it were most often the more experienced ones.

So, Edmonds concluded, there was something extraordinary in a lieutenant

being trained by Blue Flight to fly the Mohawk.

The only thing Colonel Edmonds could think of to explain the situa-

tion was that they might be using the Mohawk as an instrument flight train-

ing aircraft. Yet when he really thought some more about that, it didn’t make


He looked up at the sky and saw a triple-tailed Mohawk approaching, and

he followed it through touchdown until he lost sight of it. And then suddenly

there it was, taxiing up to the tarmac in front of Base Ops.

He remembered only then that it was said of the Mohawk that it could land

on a dime. This was accomplished by reversing the propellers’ pitch at the in-

stant of touchdown—or a split second before.

Ground handlers laid ladders against the Mohawk’s bulbous cockpit. The

two men in the aircraft unbuckled their harnesses and climbed down and then

started walking toward Base Operations.

One of them was an older man, and the other—logically, the lieutenant

whom Edmonds was looking for—was much younger.

As they came closer, Colonel Edmonds had doubts that this was the of-

ficer he was looking for. He was a tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed young man

who didn’t look as if his name was Carlos Guillermo Castillo. One would ex-

pect someone with a name like that to have a darker skin and more than likely

dark eyes.

Edmonds now saw the older man was Chief Warrant Officer-4 Pete Kowal-

4 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

ski, who was not only a master Army Aviator but vice president of the Instru-

ment Examiner Board. Edmonds was surprised that Kowalski was teaching a

lowly lieutenant.

Both saluted Colonel Edmonds as they got close to where he stood by the

Base Ops door.

“Lieutenant Castillo?” Colonel Edmonds asked.

Castillo stopped and said, “Yes, sir.”

Maybe this isn’t the right Castillo. It’s not that unusual a name.

Carlos Guillermo Castillo?” Edmonds challenged.

“Yes, sir.”

“Lieutenant, I’m Colonel Edmonds, the information officer. Between now

and 1300, we have to get you into a Class A uniform and out to the Castillo

Classroom Building on the post.”


“Where you will be photographed with the commanding general standing

by the building named after your father,” Edmonds explained.

“Sir, with respect, what’s this all about?”

“I’m reasonably confident that the photograph will shortly appear in sev-

eral hundred newspapers across the country.”

“Colonel, I’m Special Forces,” Castillo said. “We try to keep our pictures

out of the newspapers.”

Edmonds thought, What does he mean, he’s “Special Forces”?

He’s a pilot; he’s Aviation.

He may be assigned to support Special Forces, but he’s Aviation.

“Be that as it may, Lieutenant,” Edmonds said, “you will be photographed

with the commanding general at the Castillo Building at 1300.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you have a car here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, in that case, I will follow you to your BOQ. But in case we become

separated, which BOQ is it?”

“Sir, I’m in the Daleville Inn.”

The Daleville Inn was a motel in a village crammed with gasoline stations,

fast-food emporiums, hock shops, trailer parks, and used-car lots. It lay between

Cairns Army Airfield and Fort Rucker.

“You’re not in a BOQ? Why not?”

“Sir, I thought I would have a quieter place to study if I were in the Daleville

Inn than I would in a BOQ. When I went through chopper school here, the

BOQs were a little noisy.”


4 1

“But isn’t that a little expensive?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

Edmonds shook his head in amazement, then said, “Well, let’s get going.”

“Mr. Kowalski, what do I do?” Lieutenant Castillo asked. “I’m between

two masters.”

“Lieutenant,” CWO Kowalski said, smiling, “you being a West Pointer, I’m

surprised nobody told you that you always obey the last order you got from a

senior officer. You go get your picture taken with the general.”

“Thank you,” Castillo said.

“Call me when you’ve had your picture taken, and we’ll go flying again,”

Kowalski said. “I’ll take care of the paperwork here.”

“And did I pass the check ride?”

“Well, I’m reasonably sure that after another couple of hours—if you don’t

do something really stupid—I will feel confident in certifying you as compe-

tent to fly the Mohawk on instruments.”

Colonel Edmonds was a pilot. He knew what the translation of that was.

Castillo had passed—without question—his check ride. Otherwise In-

structor Pilot Kowalski would not have said what he did. What the two of

them were going to do later was take the Mohawk for a ride. Play with it.

Maybe fly down to Panama City, Florida, and fly over the beach “practicing vi-

sual observation.” Or maybe do some aerobatics.

“Would you like to come in, sir, while I shower and change?” Lieutenant

Castillo asked when they had reached the Daleville Inn.

“Thank you,” Edmonds said.

He’s a West Pointer. He will have an immaculate Class A uniform hanging in

his closet. And he will probably shave again when he showers. But there is no sense

taking a chance.

Lieutenant Castillo did not have a motel room. He had a three-room suite:

a living room with a bar, a bedroom, and a smaller second bedroom that had

been turned into an office by shoving the bed in there against a wall and mov-

ing in a desk.

I don’t know what this is costing him, but whatever it is, it’s a hell of a lot more

than his per diem allowance.

If he somehow managed to get permission to live off post and is getting per diem.

And why don’t I believe him when he said he moved in here to have a quiet place

to study? Probably because there are half a dozen assorted half-empty liquor bot-

tles on the bar. And a beer case on the floor behind it.

4 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

He’s spending all this money to have a place to entertain members of the oppo-

site sex. They’ve been cracking down on that sort of thing in the BOQs.

Well, why not? He’s young and the hormones are raging.

When Castillo went into the bedroom to shower and change, Colonel Ed-

monds looked around the living room. On a shelf under the coffee table he saw

a newspaper and pulled it out.

It was a German newspaper.

What the hell is that doing here?

Maybe he’s studying German. I read somewhere that Special Forces officers are

supposed to have, or acquire, a second language.

That would explain the German newspaper, but it doesn’t explain what he said

about his branch being Special Forces, not Aviation. What in the hell was that

all about?

When Lieutenant Castillo appeared ten minutes later, freshly shaven and in

a Class A uniform, Colonel Edmonds was glad that he had accompanied him

to his room.

While technically there was nothing wrong with the uniform—it was crisply

pressed and well fitting—it left a good deal to be desired.

The only insignia on it were the lieutenant’s silver bars on the epaulets, the

U.S. and Aviation insignias on the lapels, and the aviator’s wings on the breast.

There were no ribbons indicating awards for valor or campaigns. And there was

no unit insignia sewn to the shoulder.

“Two questions, Lieutenant,” Colonel Edmonds said. “First, didn’t you tell

me you were Special Forces and not Aviation? I ask because you are wearing Avi-

ation branch insignia.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, sir, I’m Special Forces.”

“But wearing Aviation insignia?”

“Sir, with all respect, if I’m wearing Aviation insignia, no one will connect

me with Special Forces.”

Colonel Edmonds considered that, then said, “Question Two: Where is the

rest of your insignia? I was informed you are assigned to the Special Warfare

Center at Fort Bragg. Aren’t you supposed to be wearing the Third Army shoul-

der insignia?”

“Sir, at Bragg I wear the Special Forces shoulder insignia, and the Special

Warfare Center insignia on my blaze.”

“On your what?”

“The embroidered patch worn on the green beret, sir. We’re under

DCSOPS, not Third Army, sir.”


4 3

“Lieutenant, I don’t know what you’re up to here, but I don’t have time to

play games. Do you have a tunic to which is affixed all the insignia and deco-

rations to which you are entitled?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then go put it on.”

“Sir, permission to speak?”

“Granted,” Colonel Edmonds snapped.

“Sir, as I tried to tell the colonel before, we’re supposed to maintain a low

profile. That is what I’m trying to do, sir.”

“Go put on your tunic and every last item of uniform to which you are en-

titled, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir.”

In five minutes, Lieutenant Castillo returned.

He now was wearing both aviator’s and parachutist’s wings, and a Combat

Infantryman’s badge was pinned above both. He had three rows of ribbons on

his breast, among which Colonel Edmonds recognized the Distinguished Fly-

ing Cross, the Bronze Star medal with V device, signifying it had been awarded

for valor in combat, and the Purple Heart medal with one oak-leaf cluster. The

silver aiguillette of an aide-de-camp hung from his epaulet, and on his lapels

were the one-starred shields reflecting that he was an aide-de-camp to a brigadier

general. He had a green beret on his head, and his trousers were bloused around

highly polished parachutist’s jump boots.

Colonel Edmonds had a sudden, unpleasant thought, which he quickly


Jesus Christ, is he entitled to all that stuff ?

Of course he is. He’s a West Pointer. He wouldn’t wear anything to which he

was not entitled.

“Much better, Lieutenant,” Colonel Edmonds said. “And now we’d better

get going. We don’t want to keep the general waiting, do we?”

The story appeared on the front page of The Army Flier two days later, which

was a Friday. It included a photograph of Lieutenant Castillo and the Fort

Rucker commander standing as if reading what was cast into a bronze plaque

mounted on the wall beside the main door to the WOJG Jorge A. Castillo Class-

room Building of the Army Aviation School.

4 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N


By LTC F. Mason Edmonds

Information Officer

Fort Rucker, Al., and the Army Aviation Center

Major General Charles M. Augustus, Jr. (right), Commanding General of Fort

Rucker and the Army Aviation Center and 1LT Carlos G. Castillo examine the ded-

ication plaque of the WOJG Jorge A. Castillo Classroom Building at the Army Avi-

ation School.

WOJG Castillo, 1LT Castillo’s fa-

steps, 1LT Castillo became an Army

ther, was posthumously awarded the

Aviator after his graduation from the

Medal of Honor, the nation’s high-

United States Military Academy at

est award for gallantry, in the Viet-

West Point.

nam War. He was killed when his

The opening hours of the Desert

HU-1D helicopter was struck by

War saw him flying deep inside

enemy fire and exploded on 5 April

enemy lines as co-pilot of an AH-

1971 during Operation Lam Sol

64B Apache attack helicopter

719. He was on his fifty-second

charged with destroying Iraqi anti-

rescue mission of downed fellow

aircraft radar facilities.

Army Aviators in a thirty-six-hour

The Apache was struck by enemy

period when he was killed, and was

fire, seriously wounding the pilot and

flying despite his having suffered

destroying the helicopter’s windshield

both painful burns and shrapnel

and navigation equipment.

wounds. The HU-1D in which he

Despite his own wounds, 1LT

died was the fourth helicopter he flew

Castillo took command of the badly

during this period, the others having

damaged helicopter and flew it more

been rendered un-airworthy by ene-

than 100 miles to safety. He was

my fire.

awarded the Distinguished Flying

His sadly prophetic last words

Cross for this action.

were to his co-pilot, 2LT H. F.

Now a flying aide-de-camp to a

Wilson, as he ordered him out of

general officer, 1LT Castillo returned

the helicopter in which twenty

to the Aviation School for transition

minutes later he made the supreme

training to qualify him as a pilot of

sacrifice: “Get out, Lieutenant.

the C-12 Huron.

There’s no point in both of us get-

LT Castillo is the grandson of

ting killed.”

Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Castillo of San An-

Those heroic words are cast into

tonio, Texas.

the plaque MG Augustus, Jr., and

1LT Castillo are examining.

(U.S. Army Photograph by

Following in his father’s foot-

CPL Roger Marshutz)





Room 202

The Daleville Inn

Daleville, Alabama

1625 5 February 1992

The door to Room 202 was opened by a six-foot-two, two-hundred-twenty-

pound, very black young man in a gray tattered West Point sweatshirt. He was

holding a bottle of Coors beer and looking visibly surprised to see two crisply

uniformed officers—one of them a brigadier general—standing outside the door.

“May I help the general, sir?” he asked after a moment’s hesitation.

“Dick, we’re looking for Lieutenant Castillo,” the other officer, a captain

wearing aide-de-camp’s insignia, said.

He could have been the general’s son. Both were tall, slim, and erect. The

general’s hair was starting to gray, but that was really the only significant phys-

ical difference between them.

“He’s in the shower,” the huge young black man said.

“You know each other?” the general asked.

“Yes, sir. We were at the Point together,” the captain said.

“I’d really like to see Lieutenant Castillo,” the general said to the huge

young black man.

“Yes, sir,” he replied, and opening the door all the way, added, “Would the

general like to come in, sir? I’m sure he won’t be long.”

“Thank you,” the general said, and entered the motel suite.

“General Wilson,” the captain said, “this is Lieutenant H. Richard

Miller, Jr.”

“How do you do, Lieutenant?” General Wilson said. “You’re Dick

Miller’s son?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tom, General Miller and I toured scenic Panama together a couple of

years ago,” Wilson said, then asked Miller, “How is your dad?”

“Happy, sir. He just got his second star.”

“I saw that. Please pass on my regards.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll do that.”

“You’re assigned here, are you?”

“Yes, sir. I just started Apache school.”

“Meaning you were one of the top three in your basic flight course. Con-

gratulations. Your father must be proud of you.”

4 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Actually, sir, as the general probably already knows, my father is not at all

sure Army Aviation is here to stay.”

“Yes, I know,” Wilson said, smiling. “He’s mentioned that once or twice.”

Miller held up his bottle of beer. “Sir, would it be appropriate for me to offer

the general a beer? Or something stronger?”

He immediately saw on the captain’s face that it was not appropriate.

After a moment’s hesitation, however, the general said, “I would really like

a drink, if that’s possible.”

Miller then saw genuine surprise on the captain’s face.

“Very possible, sir,” Miller said. He gestured at a wet bar. “Would the gen-

eral prefer bourbon or scotch or gin . . .”

“Scotch would do nicely,” Wilson said. “Neat.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You can have one, too, Tom,” Wilson added. “And I would feel better if

you did.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. The same, Dick, please.”

Lieutenant C. G. Castillo, wearing only a towel, came into the living room

as General Wilson was about to take a sip of his scotch. Wilson looked at him

for a long moment, then took a healthy swallow.

“Sir,” Miller said, “this is Lieutenant C. G. Castillo.”

“I’m Harry Wilson,” the general said.

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said. It was obvious the name meant nothing to him. “Is

there something I can do for the general, sir?”

“I’m here to straighten something out, Lieutenant,” General Wilson



“I was your father’s copilot,” General Wilson said.

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo blurted.

“Until I saw the story in The Army Flier right after lunch,” General Wilson

said, “I didn’t even know you existed. It took us this long to find you. The

housing office had never heard of you, and Blue Flight had shut down for

the weekend.”

Castillo looked at him but didn’t speak.

“What your father said,” General Wilson said, “just before he took off . . .

that day . . . was, ‘Get the fuck out, Harry. The way you’re shaking, you’re going

to get both of us killed.’ ”

Castillo still didn’t reply.

“Not what it says on that plaque,” General Wilson added softly. “So I got

out, and he lifted off.”


4 7

He paused, then went on: “I’ve been waiting—what is it, twenty-two

years, twenty-three?—to tell somebody besides my wife what Jorge . . . your

father . . . really said that day.”

“Sonofabitch!” Miller said softly.

“I think, under the circumstances,” Castillo finally said, obviously making

an effort to control his voice, “that a small libation is in order.”

He walked to the bar, splashed scotch into a glass, and took a healthy


“Sir,” Castillo then said, “I presume Lieutenant Miller has introduced


General Wilson nodded.

“And you remember Captain Prentiss, don’t you, Charley?” Miller asked.

“Yeah, sure. Nice to see you again, sir.”

“With the general’s permission, I will withdraw,” Miller said.

“No, you won’t,” Castillo said sharply.

“You sure, Charley?” Miller asked.

“Goddamn sure,” Castillo said.

“ ‘Charley’?” General Wilson said. “I thought I read your name was


“Yes, sir, it is. But people call me Charley.”

“Your . . . dad . . . made me call him Hor-hay,” Wilson said. “Not

George. He said he was a wetback and proud of it, and wanted to be called


“Sir, I think he was pulling your chain,” Castillo said. “From what I’ve

learned of my father, he was proud of being a Texican. Not a wetback.”

“A Texican?”

Castillo nodded. “Yes, sir. A Texan with long-ago Mexican roots. A wetback

is somebody who came across the border yesterday.”

“No offense intended, Lieutenant.”

“None taken, sir,” Castillo said. “Sir, how long did you fly with my


Wilson looked around the room, then took a seat on the couch and sipped

at his drink.

“About three months,” Wilson said. “We arrived in-country the same day.

I was fresh out of West Point, and here he was an old-timer; he’d done a six-

months tour in Germany before they shipped him to Vietnam. They put us to-

gether, with him in the right seat because he had more time. He took me under

his wing—he was a really good pilot—and taught me the things the Aviation

School didn’t teach. We shared a hootch.” He paused a moment in thought,

4 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

then finished, “Became close friends, although he warned me that that

wasn’t smart.”

“An old-timer?” Castillo said. “He was nineteen when he was killed. Christ,

I’m twenty-two.”

“I was twenty-two, too,” Wilson said softly.

“A friend of mine told me there were a lot of teenaged Huey pilots in Viet-

nam,” Castillo said.

“There were,” Wilson said, then added, “I can’t understand why he never

mentioned you. As I said, I had no idea you existed. Until today.”

“He didn’t know about me,” Castillo said. “He was killed before I was born.

I don’t think he even knew my mother was pregnant.”

“I realize this may sound selfish, Lieutenant—I realize doing so would prob-

ably open old wounds—but I’d like to go see your mother.”

“May I ask why you would want to do that, sir?” Castillo asked.

“Well, first I’d like to apologize for not looking her up when I came home.

And I’d like her to know that I know I’m alive because of your father. If he hadn’t

told me to . . . ‘get the fuck out, Harry’ . . . both of us would have died when

that chopper blew up.”

“My mother died ten years ago, sir,” Castillo said.

“I’m sorry,” Wilson said. “I should have picked that up from the story in

The Army Flier. It mentioned only your grandparents.”

“Yes, sir. They raised me. I know they’d like to talk to you, sir. Would you

be willing to do that?”

“Of course I would. I’d be honored.”

“Well, let me set that up,” Castillo said. “Then I’ll put my pants on.”

He walked to the telephone on the wet bar and punched in a number

from memory.

There followed a brief exchange in Spanish, then Castillo held out the tele-

phone to General Wilson.

“Sir, my grandfather—Juan Fernando Castillo, generally referred to as Don

Fernando—would like to speak with you.”

Wilson got quickly off the couch and walked to the wet bar.

“He speaks English, right?” he asked softly.

“It might be better if you spoke slowly, sir,” Castillo said, and handed him

the phone.

“Oh, Jesus, Charley,” Miller said. “You have a dangerous sense of


“I remember,” Captain Prentiss said.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Castillo,” General Wilson said, carefully pronounc-


4 9

ing each syllable. “My name is Harold Wilson, and I had the privilege of serv-

ing with your son Hor-hay.”

There was a reply, which caused General Wilson to shake his head and flash

Lieutenant Castillo a dirty look.

Castillo smiled and poured more scotch into his glass.

After a minute or so, Wilson handed Castillo the telephone and there fol-

lowed another conversation in Spanish. Finally, Castillo put the handset back

in the base.

“Like father, like son, right, Castillo?” General Wilson said, smiling. “You

like pulling people’s chains? Your grandfather speaks English like a Harvard


“I guess I shouldn’t have done that, sir,” Castillo said. “I have an awful

problem resisting temptation.”

“That, sir,” Miller said, “is what is known as a monumental under-


“Your grandfather and grandmother are coming here tomorrow, I guess he

told you,” Wilson said. “I’m presuming he’ll call you back with the details

when he’s made his reservations.”

“He has a plane, sir. He said they’ll leave right after breakfast. That should

put them in here about noon. What I’ve got to do now is arrange permission

for them to land at Cairns and get them some place to stay. I think I can prob-

ably get them in here.”

“They will stay in the VIP quarters,” General Wilson said. “And I’ll

arrange for permission for his plane to land at Cairns. Or Tom will.

Right, Tom?”

“Yes, sir,” Prentiss said, then looked at Castillo as he took a notebook from

his shirt pocket. “What kind of a plane is it?”

“A Learjet.”

“Got the tail number?” Prentiss asked.

Castillo gave it to him.

“Your grandfather has a Learjet?” General Wilson asked.

“Yes, sir. And until a year ago, when my grandmother made him stop, he

used to fly it himself. My cousin Fernando will be flying it tomorrow.”

“Your father painted a very colorful picture of his life as a wetback,” Wil-

son said. “The benefits of a serape and sandals; how to make tortillas and re-

fry beans. He said he played the trumpet in a mariachi band. And until just now

I believed every word.”

“Sir, according to my grandfather, what my father did before he joined the

Army—he was booted out of Texas A&M and was one step ahead of his draft

5 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

board—was fly Sikorskys, the civilian version of the H-19, ferrying people and

supplies to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Can I get you another one of those, sir?” Miller asked, nodding at the gen-

eral’s empty glass.

“Yes, please,” General Wilson said. “This time, put a little water and some

ice in it, please.”

“Yes, sir,” Miller said.

“General, may I ask a favor?” Castillo asked.


“Sir, I stood still for that picture because I was ordered to. My general is not

a great believer in publicity. I don’t know how he’ll react when he sees that

story—but I do know that he will. My grandfather is much the same way, sir;

he doesn’t like his name in the newspapers. Is there some way you can turn the

IO off?”

Wilson nodded. “Okay, he’s off. I understand how you feel.” He paused and

then smiled. “I guess you really can’t cast in bronze ‘Get the fuck out, Harry,’

can you?”

“That might raise some eyebrows, sir,” Castillo said.

“Anything else I can do for you?”

“No, sir. That’s about it. Thank you.”

“Who is your general, Charley? You don’t mind if I call you Charley,

do you?”

“Not at all, sir. General McNab, sir. He’s deputy commander of the Special

Warfare Center at Bragg.”

“He was three years ahead of me at the Point,” Wilson said. “Interest-

ing man.”

“Yes, sir, he is that.”

“May I use your telephone?”

“Yes, sir, of course,” Castillo said.

As he walked to the wet bar, General Wilson said, “When there is more than

one call to make, you should make the one to the most important person first.

You may wish to write that down.”

General Wilson appeared clearly pleased with his humor, causing Castillo

to wonder, Is he a little plastered? On two drinks?

“Yes, sir,” Castillo and Miller, both sounding confused, said almost in


The explanation came almost immediately.

“Sweetheart,” General Wilson said into the phone, “Tom found him. We’re

with him right now in the Daleville Inn.


5 1

“He doesn’t look like his father, darling, but he has Hor-hay’s sense

of humor.

“So that means two things, baby. First, there will be two more for supper

tonight. And Hor-hay’s parents are coming in tomorrow.

“Yes, really. Young Castillo called them just now. Can you do a really nice

lunch for them? And dinner, too?

“No, I thought they’d be more comfortable in the VIP house.

“We’ll be there shortly.

“Is Randy there?”

General Wilson looked at Miller and asked, “What’s your class?”

“Ninety, sir,” Miller said.

General Wilson said into the receiver, “Tell Randy he’ll have another class-

mate there tonight. Lieutenant H. Richard Miller, Jr.

“Yeah. His son.

“That’s about it, sweetheart. We’ll be over there shortly.”

He put the receiver in its base and pointed to the telephone.

“Your turn, Tom,” he ordered. “First, call protocol and reserve one of the

VIP houses for a Mr. and Mrs. Castillo for tomorrow night and the next night.

If there’s someone already in there, have them moved, and then call Cairns and

clear Mr. Castillo’s airplane to land there tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Captain Prentiss said.

“While he’s doing that,” General Wilson said, “may I help myself to another

little taste?”

“Yes, sir, of course,” Miller said.

Castillo thought: He’s getting plastered. Does he have a problem with the sauce?

“Tonight,” General Wilson said, “my daughter’s broiling steaks for her

fiancé, Randy—Randolph—Richardson, and some other of his—your—

classmates. I presume you know him?”

“Yes, sir, I know Lieutenant Richardson,” Miller said.

“Righteous Randolph,” Castillo said, and shook his head.

“I somehow suspect that my announcement that you’re about to get together

with some of your classmates is not being met with the smiles of pleasure I an-


“Sir, with all respect,” Castillo said carefully, “I don’t think our having sup-

per with Lieutenant Richardson is a very good idea. Could we pass, with

thanks, sir?”

“I’ve already told my wife you’re coming.”

“Yes, sir, I understand,” Castillo said. “Nevertheless, sir, I think it would be

best if we did that some other time.”

5 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

General Wilson stared at Castillo for a long moment. There was no longer

a question in Castillo’s mind that the general was feeling the drinks.

“Okay,” Wilson said, “what happened between you?”

Neither Castillo nor Miller replied.

“That question is in the nature of an order, gentlemen,” General Wilson

said, and now there was a cold tone in his voice.

“A book fell off a shelf, sir,” Miller said. “Striking Cadet First Sergeant

Richardson on the face. He alleged that his broken nose had actually been

caused by Cadet Private Castillo having punched him. An inquiry was held. I

was called as a witness and confirmed Cadet Private Castillo’s version. Richard-

son then brought us before a Court of Honor.”

“For violating the honor code? ‘A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tol-

erate those who do’?”

“Yes, sir.”


“We were acquitted, sir.”

“As a purely hypothetical question,” Wilson said, “why would a cadet pri-

vate take a punch at a cadet first sergeant?”

Neither replied.

“Your turn, Castillo,” General Wilson said.

“Sir, in the hypothetical situation the general describes, I could imagine that

a cadet private might lose his temper upon learning that a cadet first sergeant

had gone to his tactical officer and reported his suspicions that a cadet lieutenant

had arranged for a car to pick him up at the Hotel Thayer with the intention

of going to New York for the weekend.”

“Had the cadet lieutenant done so?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who was he? A friend?”

“Me, sir. When my tac officer called me on it, I admitted it, and he had no

choice but to bust me, sir.”

“For just sneaking into the city on a weekend? I did that routinely.”

“I was on academic restriction at the time, sir,” Castillo said.

“Oh, God, you are your father’s son,” General Wilson said.


“We had a captain who had the unpleasant habit of grabbing the nearest

soldier and having him clean his bird. I’m not talking about shining it up for

an IG inspection. I’m talking about getting rid of the vomit and blood and ex-

creta with which they were too often fouled. Your father told the captain that

the next time he grabbed our crew chief to do his dirty work, he was going to


5 3

shove him headfirst into a honey bucket. You know what a honey bucket is, pre-


“Yes, sir.”

“The captain did, and your father did, and the captain had him brought

up on charges of assault upon a senior officer. The company commander—a

wise, senior major—just about told your father that if he would take an Arti-

cle 15, he could expect no worse punishment than being restricted to the com-

pany area for two weeks. That was meaningless, actually, as we were in the

boonies, and there was nowhere to go.

“Your father demanded trial by court-martial. And he exercised his right to

defense counsel of his choice. Me. He could not be dissuaded from that, either.

He told me when they put his accuser on the stand, I was to get into great de-

tail about his shoving the captain’s head in the honey bucket.

“I was convinced your father was going to go to the Long Bihn stockade.

But—your dad was one of those natural leaders who are able to get people to

do whatever they are asked to do, even if it sounds insane—I did what

he asked.”

He stopped when Miller handed him his fresh drink.

“I’m not at all sure I need this,” General Wilson said. “But thank you.”

And then he laughed.

“Well, as I said,” he went on, smiling, “I did my best to carry out my client’s

instructions. I asked the captain over and over about the details of the assault

upon him. Finally, the president of the court had enough. ‘Wind it up, Lieu-

tenant, you’ve been over and over this. One more question.’ So I said, ‘Yes, sir.’

And I tried to think of a good final question. I came up with a doozy. Not on

purpose. It just came out of my mouth. ‘Captain,’ I said, ‘please tell the court

what you found in the honey bucket when you allege Mr. Castillo shoved your

head in it.’ ”

“Jesus Christ!” Miller said, and laughed delightedly.

“That caused some coughing on the part of the members of the court,”

General Wilson went on. “Then the captain replied, very angrily, ‘Shit is what

I found in the honey bucket. I damned near drowned in it.’

“Well, the court broke up, literally became hysterical. The president banged

his gavel and fled the room. The other members followed him. The trial was

held in a Quonset hut, and we could hear them laughing in the other end of

the building for a long time.

“Finally, they came back in. I announced that the defense rested. The lieu-

tenant prosecuting gave his closing argument, which was of course devastating,

and I gave mine, which was ludicrous. Then the court retired. They were out

5 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

thirty minutes, and then they came back and found your father not guilty of

all charges and specifications.”

“That’s a great story,” Castillo said, smiling.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t have much time to savor his victory. Two weeks

later, he was dead.”

General Wilson took a sip of his scotch, then went on: “I had a purpose in

telling that story. For one thing, it has been my experience that there is more

justice in the Army than people are usually willing to recognize. We are sup-

posed to be judged by our peers. In the Army, we really are. Soldiers who un-

derstand soldiering judge their fellow soldiers. They almost always return

verdicts that are just, even if they sort of stray from legal niceties. I would sug-

gest that court of honor which found you two not guilty and the court which

found Charley’s father not guilty based their decision on the circumstances

rather than on the cold facts.

“I suspect your fellow cadets liked Cadet Lieutenant Castillo and thought

Randy had gotten what he deserved from him. And I suspect that the officers

on the court liked your father, admired his sticking up for our crew chief, and

that the captain got what he deserved, too, and that it would serve neither jus-

tice nor good order and discipline to make things any worse than they were.

“Furthermore, that’s all water long under the dam. Vietnam and West Point

are both long ago. Tonight, when you see Randy, I’m sure that what passed be-

tween you will seem—as indeed it is—no longer important. You might even

be glad you had a chance to get together with him. He really can’t be all bad.

Beth is absolutely crazy about him.”

Castillo and Miller did not respond.

“Beth is of course off-limits. But there will be other young women there

tonight and—presuming they are neither engaged nor married—the hunting

may interest you. And I promised my wife you would be there. My quarters—

Number Two—are on Red Cloud Road. Can you find that?”

“Yes, sir,” Miller said. “I know where it is.”

“Well, having talked too much, drunk too much, and pontificated too

much, Tom and I will now leave. We will see you in about thirty minutes,


“Yes, sir,” Miller and Castillo said in chorus.

“Thank you for your hospitality, gentlemen,” General Wilson said.

“Our pleasure, sir,” Miller and Castillo said, almost in chorus.

General Wilson was almost at the door when he stopped and turned.

“Two things,” he said.

“Yes, sir?” they said.


5 5

“One, the dress is informal”—he pointed at Miller’s sweatshirt—“but, two,

not that informal.”

“Yes, sir,” Miller said.

Wilson looked at Castillo.

“Did I pick up that you’re Class of ’90 too, Charley? You and Miller and

your good friend Randy are all classmates?”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said.

“Then how in hell did you manage to get to the Desert War flying an


“That’s a long story, sir.”

“It can’t be that long.”

“Sir, I had just reported to Fort Knox to begin the basic officer course when

I was told I had been selected to fill an ‘unexpected’ slot in Rotary Wing Pri-

mary Class 90-7. I suspect it was because of my father. When I got here, they

found out I had two-hundred-odd hours of Huey time, so they gave me my

wings, transferred me to RW Advanced Class 90-8, and the next thing I knew,

there I was flying over the Iraqi desert with Mr. Kowalski at oh dark hundred

in an Apache with people shooting at us. The distinction I really have, sir, was

in having been the least qualified Apache pilot in the Army.”

“Warrant Officer Kowalski? The Blue Flight Instructor Pilot?”

“Yes, sir. There we were, probably the best Apache pilot in the Army and

the worst one.”

“I will want to hear that story more in detail, Charley. But you’re wrong.

The distinction you have is the Distinguished Flying Cross you earned flying

a shot-up Apache a hundred miles or so across the Iraqi sand at oh dark

hundred.” He paused. “Thirty minutes, gentlemen. Thank you again for your


Captain Prentiss opened the door for General Wilson, they went through

it, and Prentiss pulled it shut behind him.

After a moment, Miller moved aside the venetian blind of the front win-

dow to make sure General Wilson was really gone. He turned to Castillo and

said, “I think that’s what they call a memorable experience.”

“Yeah. I suspect the general had more to drink than he usually does.”

“I got the feeling from Prentiss that he doesn’t drink at all. This upset him.

And why not? ‘Get the fuck out, Harry. You’re shaking so much you’ll get us

both killed.’ As opposed to the heroic bullshit on the whatever you call it on

that building.”

Castillo nodded. “When I got that Apache back across the berm, and they

started pulling Kowalski out of the Apache—he wasn’t hurt as bad as it looked,

5 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

but all I could see was blood where his face was supposed to be, and there was

blood all over the cockpit—I started to shake so bad they had to hold me up.

Then I started throwing up stuff I had eaten two years before.” Castillo paused,

then went on, “I understand that. I think he thinks he did the wrong thing by

getting out. He didn’t.”

“You never told me about that before,” Miller said softly.

“You don’t want to think about it; you put it out of your mind. Jesus, Dick,

think about what they went through. They’d been picking up bloody bodies

for hours. What’s amazing is they were still doing it. Better men than thee and

me, Richard. All it took was one shot-up helicopter and Kowalski and I were

out of it.”

Miller looked at him for a long moment without responding. Then he

forced a laugh to change the subject and said, “And your father shoved some

chickenshit captain down a honey bucket. He must have been quite a guy.”

“And got away with it,” Castillo added, grinning.

“You’re not going to tell your folks about that?”

“Not Abuela. Grandpa, sure. If I don’t, Fernando will, and I definitely have

to share that story with Fernando.”

Miller nodded, then said, “We are to be reunited with Righteous Randolph.

I’ve bumped into him a half dozen times here. I’m invisible to him. As far as

he’s concerned, I am a disgrace to the Long Gray Line.”

“Just you? I’d hoped never to see the miserable sonofabitch again. I think

he was born a prick.”

“I just had a very unpleasant thought,” Miller said.

“I didn’t know you had any other kind.”

“Charley, you’re not thinking of nailing Wilson’s daughter, are you?”

“Where did that come from?”

“Answer the question.”

“For one thing, she’s a general’s daughter. I learned, painfully, the dangers

of nailing a general’s daughter with Jennifer.”

“That didn’t slow you down with the next one, Casanova. What was her

name? Delores?”

“Daphne,” Castillo furnished. “Hey, General Wilson is not only a nice guy,

but he was my father’s buddy. I’m not going to try to nail his daughter. What

kind of a prick do you think I am?”

“I know damned well what kind: The kind who will forget all those noble

sentiments the instant you start thinking with your dick. And/or that it might

be fun to nail Righteous Randolph’s girlfriend, just for old times’ sake. Don’t

do it, Charley.”




“Put your evil imagination at rest.”

“In case I didn’t say this before: Don’t do it, Charley. I’m serious.”


2002 Red Cloud Road

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1735 5 February 1992

The quarters assigned to the deputy commanding general of the Army Avia-

tion Center and Fort Rucker, Alabama, were larger, but not by much, than the

quarters assigned to officers of lesser rank.

Castillo thought the dependent housing area of Fort Rucker—more than a

thousand one-story frame buildings, ninety percent of them duplexes, spread

over several hundred acres of pine-covered, gently rolling land—looked like an

Absolutely no money down! Move right in! housing development outside, say,

Houston or Philadelphia.

His boss, Brigadier General Bruce J. McNab, lived in a spacious, two-story

brick colonial house on an elm-shaded street at Fort Bragg. The reason for the

difference was that the senior officer housing at Bragg had been built before

World War II, while all the housing at Rucker had gone up immediately before

and during the Vietnam War.

The driveway to General Wilson’s quarters was lined with automobiles, half

of them ordinary Fords and Chevrolets, the other half sports cars. Miller said that

was how you told which lieutenants were married and which were not. It was

impossible to support both a wife and a Porsche on a lieutenant’s pay, even a lieu-

tenant on flight pay. Miller himself drove a Ford; Castillo, a Chevrolet coupe.

There was a handmade sign on the front door of Quarters Two. It had an

arrow and the words “Around in Back” in bold type.

Around in back of the house was the patio. This consisted of a concrete pad

enclosed by an eight-foot slat fence painted an odd shade of blue. On the patio

were two gas-fired barbecue stoves, two picnic tables, two round tables with

folded umbrellas, four large ice-filled containers, and about twenty young men

and women.

All the young men—including Miller and Castillo—were dressed very

much alike: sports jackets, slacks, open-collared shirts, and well-shined shoes.

It was not hard to imagine them in uniform.

The young women were similarly dressed in their own same style: skirts and

either sweaters or blouses.

5 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo’s eye fell on one of the latter, a blonde standing by one of the smok-

ing stoves. Even across the patio, Castillo could see her brassiere through the

sheer blouse. He had always found this fascinating, and was so taken with this

one that he didn’t notice a couple walking across the patio until Miller whis-

pered, “Heads-up, here comes Righteous Randolph.”

The female with Righteous Randolph, also a blonde, was every bit as good-

looking as the one cooking steaks. She wore a skirt topped with a tight sweater.

“And good evening to you, Righteous,” Miller said.

“You’re Miller and Castillo, right?” the blonde asked.

“Guilty,” Miller said.

“I couldn’t believe Randy when he said you would have the gall to show up

here,” the blonde said.

“Charles, my boy,” Miller said. “I suspect that our invitation to mingle

with these charming people has been withdrawn.”

“Odd, I’m getting the same feeling,” Castillo said. “I suspect we withdraw.

With Righteous’s permission, of course.”

“You’re right, sweetheart,” the blonde said. “They think it’s funny, and

they’re oh, so clever.”

“And hers, too, of course,” Castillo said.

“You two are really disgusting,” Lieutenant Randolph Richardson said.

Castillo was already behind the wheel of his Chevrolet and Miller was having

his usual trouble fastening the seat belt around his bulk when Captain Prentiss

came running down the drive.

“Where the hell are you going?” Prentiss demanded.

“We tried to tell the general—you were there—that our coming here was

probably going to be a mistake,” Castillo said. “A stunning blonde, who I

strongly suspect is the general’s daughter, just confirmed that prognosis.”

“My feelings are crushed beyond measure,” Miller said. “Righteous Ran-

dolph just told us we are really disgusting. I’m about to break into tears, and I

didn’t want to do that for fear of bringing discredit upon the Long Gray Line.”

“Gentlemen,” Prentiss said. “General Wilson’s compliments. The general re-

quests that you attend him at your earliest convenience.”

“What the blonde said was she couldn’t believe we’d have the gall to show

up here,” Castillo said.

“Gentlemen,” Prentiss repeated. “General Wilson’s compliments. The gen-

eral requests that you attend him at your earliest convenience.”

“That sounds pretty goddamn official, Tom,” Miller said.


5 9

“As goddamn official as I know how to make it, Lieutenant,” Prentiss said.

He pulled open the passenger-side door.

A trim blonde who was visibly the mother of the one on the patio was waiting

at the open door of Quarters Two.

“You’re Miller and Castillo, right? Dick and Charley?”

“Yes, ma’am,” they said.

“I’m Bethany Wilson,” she said with a smile. “Where were you going?”

Prentiss answered for them.

“Beth apparently believes they are responsible for the general’s condition,”

he said. “And greeted them with something less than enthusiasm.”

“If anyone is responsible for the general’s condition, you are, Tom,” Mrs.

Wilson said. “What did Beth say?”

“The one responsible for the general’s condition is the general,” General

Wilson said, coming to the door from inside the house.

“Good evening, sir,” Miller and Castillo said.

“The general’s condition, in case you’re wondering,” he said, “is that he

cannot—never has been able to—handle any more than one drink in a ninety-

minute period. As you may have noticed, I had four drinks in about forty-five

minutes at your apartment. And then I came home. And fell out of the car, be-

fore at least a dozen of my daughter’s guests. Then, to prove to the world that

all I had done was stumble a little, I got onto my wife’s bicycle and went mer-

rily down the drive—until I collided with the car of another arriving guest. At

that point, Tom finally caught up with me and got me into the house.”

He looked between Miller and Castillo and said, “You may smile. It certainly

wasn’t your fault, but I would consider it a personal favor, Lieutenant Miller, if

you did not tell your father about this amusing little episode.”

“I beg the general’s pardon, but I didn’t hear a thing that was said,”

Miller said.

“Quickly changing the subject,” Mrs. Wilson said, “what can I get you to

drink? Or would you rather just go out to the patio and join the other

young people?”

“There’s one more thing, dear,” General Wilson said. “Dick and Charley

don’t get along well with Randy.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” she said. “Do I get to hear why?”

“No,” General Wilson said. “You were saying something about offer-

ing them drinks? Then I suggest we show them the scrapbook—there’s a

number of pictures of your dad, Charley, and yours too, Dick—and then,

6 0


. E . B . G R I F F I N

throwing poor Tom yet again into the breach, Tom can cook us some steaks to

eat in here.”

“Sir,” Prentiss said, “I’m sorry that I didn’t—”

“Didn’t what?” Wilson interrupted, and looked at Castillo. “Charley, you’re

an aide. Would you dare to tell your general to go easy on the sauce?”

“No, sir, I would not,” Castillo replied.

“There you go, Tom. Nobody’s fault but mine. Subject closed.”


2002 Red Cloud Road

Fort Rucker, Alabama

0755 6 February 1992

Captain Tom Prentiss walked to the kitchen door of Quarters Two and lightly

tapped one of the panes with his ring. Brigadier General Harry Wilson, who

was sitting at the kitchen table in his bathrobe, gestured for him to come in.

He entered.

“Did you have to knock so loudly?” General Wilson inquired.

Prentiss exchanged smiles with Mrs. Bethany Wilson, who stood at

the stove.

“Good morning, ma’am.”

Good morning, Tom,” she replied, her tone teeming with an exagger-

ated cheeriness.

General Wilson glared at her over his coffee mug. Miss Beth Wilson, who

was sitting across the table from her father, rolled her eyes.

“The general is not his chipper self this morning?” Prentiss said to him. “We

are not going to have our morning trot up and down Red Cloud?”

“For one thing, it’s Saturday. For another, in my condition, I could not trot

down the drive to Red Cloud, much less up and down Red Cloud itself.”

“Well, Harry,” Mrs. Wilson said, turning from the stove, “you know what

they say about the wages of sin.” She looked at Prentiss. “Your timing is per-

fect. You want fried or scrambled?”

“I was hoping you’d make the offer,” Prentiss said. “Scrambled, please.”

“You know where the coffee is,” she said.

“Bring the pot, please, Tom,” General Wilson said. “Unless you have an oxy-

gen flask in your pocket.”

“I can have one here in five minutes, sir,” Prentiss said.

He took the decanter from the coffee machine and carried it to the table.


6 1

“And how are you this morning, Miss Beth?” Prentiss said.

Beth Wilson flashed him an icy look, but didn’t reply.

“Does oxygen really work, Tom?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

“Yes, ma’am, it does.”

“You heard that? Or you know from personal experience?”

“I respectfully claim my privilege against self-incrimination under the fifth

amendment to the constitution,” Prentiss said.

“Seriously, Tom,” General Wilson said, “how much trouble would it be to

get your hands on an oxygen flask before we go to meet the Castillos?”

“You want it right now, sir?”

“You heard what she said about the wages of sin,” General Wilson said. “I’m

about to die.”

“Let me make a call,” Prentiss said, and started to get up.

“Eat your breakfast first,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Let him suffer a little.”

“Oh, God!” General Wilson said. “Is there no pity in the world for a suf-

fering man?”

His wife and his aide-de-camp chuckled.

His daughter said, “You all make me sick!”

“I beg your pardon?” General Wilson said.

“You’re all acting as if it’s all very funny.”

“There are elements of humor mingled with the gloom,” General Wil-

son said.

“Randy said he did it on purpose,” Beth said.

“Randy did what on purpose?” her mother asked.

Castillo did it on purpose. Castillo got Daddy drunk on purpose, hoping

he would make an ass of himself.”

General Wilson said, “Well, Daddy did in fact make sort of an ass of him-

self, but Charley Castillo wasn’t responsible. Daddy was.”

“Actually, I thought you careening down the drive on my bike was hilari-

ous,” his wife said.

General Wilson raised his eyebrows at that, then said, “It’s not the sort of

behavior general officers should display before a group of young officers, and

I’m well aware of that. But the sky is not falling, and I am being punished, as

your mother points out, for my sins.”

“Randy says he was always doing that, trying to humiliate his betters,”

Beth said.

“You knew him at the Point, Tom,” General Wilson said. “Was he?”

“Well, he was one of the prime suspects, the other being Dick Miller, in

‘The Case of Who Put Miracle Glue on the Regimental Commander’s Saber.’ ”

6 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Really?” Mrs. Wilson asked, as she laid a plate of scrambled eggs be-

fore him.

Prentiss nodded. “He couldn’t get it out of the scabbard on the Friday re-

treat parade. Talk about humiliation!”

“And then he lied about it!” Beth said. “Randy told me all about that.”

“What they did was claim their right against self-incrimination, Beth,”

Prentiss said. “That’s not the same thing as lying.”

“Randy said he lied,” she insisted.

“I was there. Randy wasn’t,” Prentiss said. “I was the tactical officer super-

vising the Court of Honor. The court knew they did it, but they couldn’t prove

it. Nobody actually saw them.”

“So they let him—them—go?” Beth said.

“They had no choice. Nobody saw them do it.”

“Was that the real reason?” she challenged. “It wasn’t because his father

won that medal?”

“You get that from Randy, too?” General Wilson asked softly.

“Randy said that the only reason they weren’t thrown out of West Point was

because Castillo’s father had that medal . . . that the only reason he was in West

Point to begin with was because his father had that medal.”

“Sons of Medal of Honor recipients are granted entrance to West Point,”

General Wilson said. “Staying in the Corps of Cadets is not covered.”

“And he said that no one had the courage to expel the son of a black gen-

eral,” Beth went on, “no matter what he’d done.”

“And what does Randy have to say about Lieutenant Castillo’s Distinguished

Flying Cross?” General Wilson asked, softly.

“He said it’s impossible to believe that someone could graduate in ninety

and be through flight school and flying an Apache in the Desert War when

Castillo says he was unless a lot of strings were pulled.”

“I am in no condition to debate this with you now, Beth,” General Wilson

said. “But just as soon as the Castillos leave, you, Randy, and I are going to have

to talk. While the Castillos are here, I don’t think it would be a good idea if you

were around them.”

“You’re throwing me out?” Beth said somewhat indignantly.

“I’m suggesting that you spend the day, and tonight, with a friend. Patri-

cia, maybe?”

“I’ve got a date with Randy tonight. Where am I supposed to get dressed?”

“Doesn’t Patricia have a bedroom? Take what clothing you need with you.

I don’t want you around here when the Castillos are here.”

“Yes, sir,” she snapped, and jumped up from the table.




“Tom, would you take her to the Gremmiers’?”

“Yes, sir,” Prentiss said, then added a little hesitantly, “General, I was sort

of hoping I could get Beth to help me at the VIP house; make sure everything’s

right. And I know Mrs. Wilson is . . .”

“Get her to help you at the VIP house, then take her to the Gremmiers’,”

Mrs. Wilson ordered.

“I’m perfectly capable of driving myself,” Beth said.

“We’re probably going to need both cars,” General Wilson said. “End of



Magnolia Cottage

Fort Rucker, Alabama

0845 6 February 1992

Camp Rucker had been built on a vast area of sandy, worn-out-from-cotton-

farming land in southern Alabama in the opening months of World War II. It

was intended for use first as a division training area, and then for the confine-

ment of prisoners of war. An army of workmen had erected thousands of two-

story frame barracks, concrete-block mess halls, theaters, chapels, headquarters,

warehouses, officers’ clubs, and all the other facilities needed to accomplish

this purpose, including a half-dozen small frame buildings intended to house

general officers and colonels.

After the war and the repatriation of the POWs, the camp was closed, only

to be reopened briefly for the Korean War, where it again served as a division

training base. Then it was closed for good.

Several years after the Korean War, with Camp Rucker placed on the list of

bases to be wiped from the books, the decision was made to greatly expand

Army Aviation. United States Senator John Sparkman (Democrat, Alabama)—

to whom a large number of fellow senators owed many favors—suggested that

Camp Rucker would be a fine place to have an Army Aviation Center. His fel-

low senators voted in agreement with their esteemed colleague.

Thus, the facility was then reopened and declared a fort, a permanent base.

Another army of workmen swarmed over it, building airfields and classrooms

and whatever else was needed for a flying army. They also tore down most of

the old frame buildings—most, not all.

Chapels and theaters remained, and the warehouses, and the officer’s clubs,

and the post headquarters building, and four of the cottages originally built in

6 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

the early 1940s to last only five to ten years for the housing of general officers

and senior colonels. Two of these four—including Building T-1104, which had

been renamed “Magnolia Cottage”—were near the main gate, outside of which

was Daleville.

They were fixed up as nicely as possible, air-conditioned, furnished with the

most elegant furniture to be found in Army warehouses, provided with a

kitchen, and became VIP quarters in which distinguished visitors to the post

were housed.

When Captain Tom Prentiss pushed open the door of Magnolia House and

waved Beth Wilson into the living room, they found the place was immacu-

late. There were even fresh flowers in a vase in the center of the dining table.

“Looks fine to me,” Beth Wilson said.

Prentiss didn’t reply directly. Instead, he said, “I’ve got to make a telephone

call. Have a seat.”

“That sounds like an order,” she snapped.

“Not at all. If you’d rather, stand.”

He used the telephone in the small kitchen and, not really curious, she nev-

ertheless managed to hear Prentiss’s side of the conversation:

“Tom Prentiss. I’m glad I caught you at home. I need a big favor.

“Could you come to Magnolia House right now? It shouldn’t take more

than a few minutes.

“No, don’t worry about that. He’s not here.

“I stand in your debt, sir.”

Beth Wilson wondered what that was all about, but was not going to ask.

When Prentiss hung up the phone, she said, “Will you tell me what you

want me to do, so I can do it and get out of here?”

“There doesn’t seem to be anything that needs doing,” Prentiss said. “But

we’re going to have to wait until somebody comes here.”

She locked eyes with him.

He went on: “You upset your dad with that recitation of what your

boyfriend had to think about just about everything. I suppose you know that?”

“Is that really any of your business?”

“Let me explain where I’m coming from,” Prentiss said coldly. “I admire

your father more than I do anyone else I’ve ever met. If you were to look in a

dictionary, there would be a picture of your dad in the definition of officer

and gentleman.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that when you let Castillo get him

drunk and make a fool of himself.”


6 5

“You’re right. I should have,” Prentiss said. “But your question, Beth, was

‘Is it any of my business’ that you upset your father by quoting your boyfriend

to him and making him damned uncomfortable. And the answer is, ‘Yeah, it

is my business.’ It’s my duty to do something to straighten you out.”

“Straighten me out?”

“Yeah, and your boyfriend, too. He’s next on my list.”

“I can’t believe this conversation,” Beth said. “And I don’t think my parents

are going to like it a bit when I tell them about it.”

“I’ll have to take my chances about that,” Prentiss said.

“I’m leaving,” she said. “I don’t have to put up with this.”

“I can’t stop you, of course, but if you leave, you’ll walk. And it’s a long way

from here to Colonel Gremmier’s quarters.”

He walked out of the living room and went through the dining room into

the kitchen.

Beth started for the door, then stopped.

That arrogant bastard is right about one thing. I can’t walk from here to

the Gremmiers’.

So what do I do?

She was still staring at the door three minutes later when it opened and a

middle-aged man wearing a woolen shirt, a zipper jacket, and blue jeans came

through it.

He looked at her and said, “I’m looking for Tom Prentiss.”

“I’m in the kitchen, Pete,” Prentiss called. “Be right there.”

When he came into the living room, Prentiss said, “Jesus, that was quick.”

“Well, you said you needed a favor,” the man said.

“Do you know Miss Wilson?” Prentiss asked.

“I know who she is.”

“Beth, this is Mr. Kowalski. He was my instructor pilot when I went

through Blue Flight. He was with Lieutenant Castillo in the desert.”

Beth nodded coldly at Kowalski.

Kowalski looked at Prentiss.

“How’d you hear about that?” Kowalski said.

“From him,” Prentiss said. “What he told the general was something

like ‘There we were, the best Apache pilot in the Army and the worst one,

flying an Apache over the Iraqi desert at oh dark hundred with people shoot-

ing at us.’ ”

Kowalski chuckled.

“Well,” he said, “that’s a pretty good description. Except, as he shortly

proved, he was a much better Apache pilot than he or I thought he was.”

“Would you please tell Miss Wilson about that?”

6 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Kowalski glanced at her, then looked back at Prentiss and said, “What’s this

all about, Tom? Did somebody tell the general what Charley’s really doing here?”

“I don’t know what he’s really doing here,” Prentiss said, “but I’ll take my

chances about learning that, too. Start with the desert, please, Pete.”

“It would help if I knew what this is all about, Tom.”

“Okay. A source in whom Miss Wilson places a good deal of faith has im-

plied that the only reason Castillo was in an Apache in the desert was because

his father had the Medal of Honor.”

“Absolutely true,” Kowalski said. He shook his head. “Jesus Christ, I’d pretty

much forgotten that!”

Beth flashed Prentiss a triumphant glance.

Then Kowalski went on: “What happened was a week, maybe ten days

before we went over the berm, the old man, Colonel Stevens? He was then a

light colonel”—Prentiss nodded—“Stevens called me in and said I wasn’t going

to believe what he was going to tell me.”

“Which was?” Prentiss said.

“That I was about to have a new copilot. That said new copilot had a little

over three hundred hours’ total time, forty of which were in the Apache, and

had been in the Army since last June, when he’d graduated from West Point.

And the explanation for this insanity was that this kid’s father had won the

Medal of Honor, and they thought it would make a nice story for the newspa-

pers that the son of a Medal of Honor guy had been involved in the first ac-

tion . . . etcetera. Get the point?”

“Now, Tom, isn’t that very much what Randy said?” Beth asked in an arti-

ficially sweet tone.

“I’m not finished,” Kowalski said. “Tom said I was to tell you what


“Oh, please do,” Beth said.

“Well, I shortly afterward met Second Lieutenant Charley Castillo,” Kowal-

ski continued. “And he was your typical bushy-tailed West Point second john.

He was going to win the war all by himself. But I also picked up that he was

so dumb that he had no idea what they were doing to him.

“And I sort of liked him, right off. He was like a puppy, wagging his tail and

trying to please. So because of that, and because I was deeply interested in pre-

serving my own skin, I spent a lot of time in the next week or whatever it was,

giving him a cram course in the Kowalski Method of Apache Flying. He wasn’t

a bad pilot; he just didn’t have the Apache time, the experience.

“And then we went over the berm and—what did Castillo say?—‘There we

were flying over the Iraqi desert at oh dark hundred with people shooting at us.’


6 7

“What we were doing was taking out Iraqi air defense radar. If the radar

didn’t work, they not only couldn’t shoot at the Air Force but they wouldn’t even

know where it was.

“I was flying, and Charley was shooting. He was good at that, and like he

said, he wasn’t the world’s best Apache pilot.

“And then some raghead got lucky. I don’t think they were shooting at us;

what I think happened was they were shooting in the air and we ran into it.

Anyway, I think it was probably an explosive-headed 30mm that hit us. It came

through my windshield, and all of a sudden I was blind. . . .

“And I figured, ‘Oh, fuck’ ”—he glanced at Beth Wilson—“sorry. I figured,

‘We’re going in. The kid’ll be so shook up he’ll freeze and never even think of

grabbing the controls’—did I mention, we lost intercom?—‘and we’re going to

fly into the sandpile about as fast as an Apache will fly.’

“And then, all of a sudden, I sense that he is flying the sonofabitch, that what

he’s trying to do is gain a little altitude so that he can set it down someplace

where the ragheads aren’t.

“And then I sense—like I said, I can’t see a goddamned thing—that he’s fly-

ing the bird. That he’s trying to go home.”

“When he really should have been trying to land?” Beth asked.

“Yeah, when he really should have been trying to land,” Kowalski said.

“When most pilots would have tried to land.”

“Then why didn’t he?” Beth asked.

“Because when he had to wipe my blood from his helmet visor, he

figured—damned rightly—that if he set it down, even if there no were ragheads

waiting to shoot us—which there were—it would be a long time before any-

body found us, and I would die.

“From the way the bird was shaking, from the noise it was making, I

thought that we were going to die anyway; the bird was either going to come

apart or blow up.”

“So he should have landed, then?” Beth asked.

“Either I’m not making myself clear, young lady, or you don’t want to hear

what I’m saying,” Kowalski said, not pleasantly. “If Charley had set it down, he

would have lived, and maybe I wouldn’t have. He knew that all those long

miles back to across the berm. And he had enough time in rotary-wing aircraft

to think what I was thinking— Any second now, this sonofabitch is going to come

apart, and we’ll both die. Knowing that, he kept flying. In case there is any

question in your mind, I am the founding member of the Charley Castillo

Fan Club.”

“That’s a very interesting story,” Beth said.

6 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Well, you asked for it,” Kowalski said. “I don’t know where you got your

story, but you got it wrong.”

“What happened then, Pete?” Prentiss asked.

“Well, when I got out of the hospital—I wasn’t hurt as bad as it looked;

there’s a lot of blood in the head, and I lost a lot, and that’s what blinded me—

I went looking for him. But he was already gone. I asked around and found out

that when the public relations guys learned that Colonel Stevens had put

Charley in for the impact award of the DFC—which he damned sure deserved,

that and the Purple Heart, because he’d taken some shrapnel in his hands—

they’d arranged to have him flown to Riyadh, so that General Schwarzkopf

could personally pin the awards on him. A picture of that would really have got-

ten in all the newspapers.

“But at Riyadh, one of the brass—I heard it was General Naylor, who was

Schwartzkopf ’s operations officer; he just got put in for a third star, they’re giv-

ing him V Corps, I saw that in The Army Times—”

“I know who he is,” Prentiss said.

Kowalski nodded. “Anyway, someone took a close look at this second lieu-

tenant fresh from West Point flying an Apache and decided something wasn’t

kosher. What I heard first was that Charley had been reassigned to fly Hueys

for some civil affairs outfit to get him out of the line of fire, so to speak—”

“I don’t understand ‘what you heard first,’ ” Beth interrupted.

“—then I heard,” Kowalski went on, ignoring her while looking at Pren-

tiss, “what Charley was really doing was flying Scotty McNab around the desert

in a Huey. The story I got was that was the only place Naylor thought he could

stash him safe from the public relations guys, who couldn’t wait to either put

Charley back in an Apache or send him on a speechmaking tour.”

“You said something before, Pete, about what Castillo is ‘really doing here’?”

Prentiss asked.

“You really don’t know?”

Prentiss shook his head.

“And the general doesn’t know either? Or maybe heard something? Why the


“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Prentiss said. “I heard he was get-

ting Blue Flight transition into the King Air.”

“Then I think we should leave it there,” Kowalski said. “If you don’t mind.”

“If I tell you, and Miss Wilson agrees, that anything you tell us won’t go any

farther than this room . . .”

“I really would like an explanation of that,” Beth said.

“Okay, with the understanding that I’ll deny everything if anybody asks

me,” Kowalski said.


6 9

“Understood,” Prentiss said.

“Agreed,” Beth said.

“Well, the original idea, as I understand it, was to stash Charley where he

should have been all along—flying in the left seat of a Huey in an aviation com-

pany. Christ, he’d just gotten out of flight school, and he didn’t even go through

the Huey training; they just gave him a check ride. In a company, he could build

up some hours. But Naylor figured if he sent him to a regular company, the

same people who’d put him in an Apache would put him back in one. So he

sent him to McNab, who had this civil affairs outfit as a cover for what he was

really doing in the desert.”

“Which was?” Beth asked.

“Special Forces, honey,” Kowalski said. “The guys with the Green Beanies.”

“Oh,” she said.

“But it didn’t work out that way. McNab heard about the kid who’d flown

the shot-up Apache back across the berm, went for a look, liked what he saw,

and put him to work flying him around. I understand they got involved in a

lot of interesting stuff. And then McNab found out that Charley speaks Ger-

man and Russian. I mean really speaks it, like a native. And that was really use-

ful to McNab.

“So the war’s over. McNab gets his star . . . there were a lot people who didn’t

think that would ever happen—”

“How is it that he speaks German and Russian like a native?” Beth inter-


“His mother was German; he was raised there. I don’t know where he

got the Russian. And some other languages, too. Anyway, McNab is now a

general. He’s entitled to an aide, so he takes Charley to Bragg with him as his

aide . . .”

Kowalski stopped and smiled and shook his head.

“Why are you smiling?” Beth asked.

“Charley thought he was really hot stuff. And why not? He wasn’t out of

West Point a year, and here he was an aviator with the DFC, two Purple Hearts,

a Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantry Badge. And now a general’s aide.”

“I didn’t know about the CIB and the Bronze Star,” Prentiss said. “Where’d

he get those?”

“I saw the Bronze Star citation,” Kowalski said. “It says he ‘distinguished

himself while engaged in intensive combat action of a clandestine and covert na-

ture.’ I guess he got the CIB and the second Purple Heart from the same place.”

“That’s all it said?” Prentiss asked.

“God only knows what McNab did over there, all of it covert and clandes-

tine. He came out of that war—and you know how long it lasted; it took me

7 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

longer to walk out of Cambodia—with a Distinguished Service Medal, a

Purple Heart, a star for his CIB, and the star that most people never thought

he’d get.

“Anyway, when Charley got to Bragg, McNab quickly took the wind out

of his sails.”

“I’d like to know how he managed to do that,” Beth said sweetly.

Kowalski gave her a look that was half curiosity and half frown, then went

on, “When I heard Charley was at Bragg, I went to see him the first time. He

wasn’t in McNab’s office; he was out in the boonies, at Camp Mackall, taking

Green Beanie qualification training. Eating snakes and all that crap, you know?

And before that, McNab had sent him to jump school. That’ll take the wind out

of anybody’s sails.”

“I thought he was General McNab’s aide,” Beth said.

“Oh, he was, but first he had to go to Benning and Mackall. Then, as an

aide, McNab really ran his ass ragged. What he was doing, of course, was train-

ing him. But Charley didn’t know that. He decided that God really didn’t like

him after all, that the fickle finger of fate had got him, that he was working for

one mean sonofabitch.

“He told me that when his tour as an aide was up, it was sayonara, Special

Forces, back to Aviation for him. McNab was of course one, two jumps ahead

of him. I was up there to see Charley maybe two, three months ago on a, quote,

Blue Flight cross-country exercise, end quote. McNab sent for me, told me the

conversation was private, and asked me what I thought of the 160th.”

“The Special Forces Aviation Regiment?” Beth asked.

Kowalski nodded.

“Special Operations Aviation Regiment. SOAR. I told him what I

thought—which is that it’s pretty good, and I would much rather be at Camp-

bell flying with the Night Stalkers than teaching field-grade officers to fly here.

“He said he thought it would be just the place for Charley to go when his

aide tour was up. I told him I didn’t think that with as little time as Charley

had—either total hours or in the Army—they’d take him. He said what he was

thinking of doing was sending Charley over here for Blue Flight transition into

the King Air—which he already knew how to fly—and what could be done

while he was here to train him in something else, something that would appeal

to the 160th?

“He said he knew two people who were going to have a quiet word in the

ear of whoever selected people for the 160th saying that they’d flown with him

in combat, and thought he could make it in the 160th. Then he pointed to me

and him.

“And he said, ‘If I hear you told him, or even if he finds out about this, I




will shoot you in both knees with a .22 hollow-point.’ ” Kowalski laughed.

“McNab really likes Charley. They’re two of a kind.”

“So what are you doing for him here?” Prentiss asked.

“If it’s got wings or rotary blades, by the time I send him back to Bragg, he

will be checked out in it as pilot-in-command,” Kowalski said. “I’ve even

checked him out in stuff the Aviation Board has for testing that the Army

hasn’t even bought yet.”

“How do you get away with that?” Prentiss asked.

“I’m the vice president of the Instrument Examiner Board and the training

scheduler for Blue Flight,” Kowalski said. “Very few people ask me why I’m

doing something. And a lot of people owe me favors. Like I figure I owe Charley

several big ones.”

Prentiss nodded

“Thanks, Pete,” he said.

“This is the favor you wanted? Telling you about Charley?”

“Yeah. And now I need one more. You going home from here?”

“Yeah,” Kowalski said.

“How about dropping Miss Wilson at Colonel Gremmier’s quarters? I have

the feeling she’d rather be with anyone but me right now.”

Kowalski looked at the girl, then back at Prentiss.

“You going to explain that?” Kowalski said.

“You don’t want to know, Pete.”

“Yeah, sure. Gremmier’s house is right on my way.”


2002 Red Cloud Road

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1955 6 February 1992

“These are really wonderful photos,” Juan Fernando Castillo said. He glanced

up from the thick photo album on the coffee table in the Wilsons’ living room

and met Brigadier General Harold F. Wilson’s eyes.

“They mean a lot to me, Don Fernando,” the general said.

The last snapshot that Don Fernando was looking at was a five-by-seven

color photograph of Second Lieutenant Harold F. Wilson and WOJG Jorge A.

Castillo standing by the nose of an HU-1D helicopter of the 322nd Attack He-

licopter Company. Both were smiling broadly.

Don Fernando—no one had ever dared call him Don Juan, for the obvi-

ous reason—was a tall, heavyset man with a full head of dark hair. He wore a

7 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

well-tailored nearly black double-breasted pin-striped suit. He looked very

much like one of his grandsons, Fernando Manuel Lopez, who sat on one side

of him on the Wilsons’ couch, and not at all like his other grandson, Carlos

Guillermo Castillo, who sat on the other side of him.

“Let me tell you what I’ve decided to do with those photos, Don Fernando,”

Wilson said. “And a good decision is a good decision, even if it is made much

longer after it should have been.”

“Excuse me?” Don Fernando said.

“I have decided that many of them should be hanging, suitably framed, in

the Jorge Castillo Classroom Building. The first thing Monday morning, I will

take them to our state-of-the-art photo lab.”

“I think that’s a very good idea, General,” Don Fernando said.

“You’re not going to stop that, are you? Calling me ‘General’?”

“You have to understand, Harry,” Don Fernando said, “that I never got any

higher than major, and never very close to general officers.”

“When Jorge and I were in ’Nam, we thought majors were God,” Wil-

son said.

“So did we majors in Korea,” Don Fernando said.

They laughed.

“I never thought majors were God, did you, Gringo?” Fernando Lopez

asked Charley in a mock innocent tone.

“Fernando!” Doña Alicia Castillo said.

The wife of Don Fernando—and grandmother of Fernando Lopez and

Charley Castillo—was a slight woman, her black hair heavily streaked with

gray and pulled tight around her head. She wore a single strand of large pearls

around her neck. Her only other jewelry consisted of two gold, miniature

branch insignias—Armor and Aviation, honoring Fernando and Charley,

respectively—pinned to the bosom of her simple black dress and her wedding

and engagement rings.

She was an elegant, dignified, and formidable lady.

Don Fernando smiled. “My darling, Fernando’s been calling him that

from the moment Carlos got off the plane. What makes you think he’ll

stop now?”

“Actually, Fernando,” Charley said, “now that I think about it, no, I never

thought majors were God-like. Other comparisons, however, have occurred to

me from time to time.”

Doña Alicia shook her head.

“May I finish, gentlemen?” Wilson asked. “As I was saying, I will order that

they be copied with great care, enlarged, and three copies made of each. You

should have your complete set in San Antonio by Friday.”




“Oh, my God, you don’t have to do that,” Don Fernando said.

“Oh, yes, I do,” Wilson said. “I’m only sorry that I didn’t . . .”

“What happened, happened,” Don Fernando said. “You tried.”

“And our number is unlisted,” Doña Alicia said. “You couldn’t be expected

to find someone who isn’t in the book.”

“My wife and I were deeply touched by your letter,” Don Fernando said.

“Yes, we were, Harry,” Doña Alicia said. “It was heartfelt. And then the maid

threw it out before I could reply. Things happened that kept us from getting

together before this. I’m just so glad it finally happened.”

“General,” Castillo said, “may I ask a question?”

“Of course, Charley.”

“Sir, aren’t you a little concerned that somebody might recognize the sec-

ond lieutenant standing next to my father?”

“Yes, I am. But I don’t see what I can do about that, do you?”

“I don’t understand,” Doña Alicia said.

“For what it’s worth, General, I hope a lot of people do,” Castillo said.

The general didn’t reply.

“Thank you, Charley,” Mrs. Bethany Wilson said. “And so do I.”

“I have hanging in my office,” Don Fernando said, “Jorge’s medal and a pho-

tograph, a terrible one taken when he graduated from flight school. I will re-

place the photograph with this one.”

“That’s a great idea,” Charley said.

Doña Alicia asked, “What about—would this be possible?—getting a photo

of the plaque on that building to put beside it? Or perhaps having a replica made

for the same purpose?”

“Abuela,” Charley said. “Trust me. That’s a lousy idea.”

“Why is it a lousy idea?”

“The gringo’s right, Abuela,” Fernando said. “Just the photo. The photo’s a

great idea.”

“Don’t call Carlos that,” Doña Alicia said, but then she let the matter drop.


Room 202

The Daleville Inn

Daleville, Alabama

1920 8 February 1992

Dripping water, Charley Castillo was wearing a thick terry-cloth bathrobe—and

not a damn thing else—when he went to answer his door. The somewhat sour-

7 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

toned chime had been bonging steadily—amid the downpour drumming on

the roof—since before he had stepped out from the shower.

There’s no telling how long it’s been bonging like that.

Either the motel is on fire or some sonofabitch has stuck a toothpick in the


Or, more likely, it’s Pete Kowalski with the wonderful news that he’s got his

hands on an Apache and we can get in a couple of hours airborne tonight.

And my ass is dragging.

It was instead Miss Beth Wilson.

It was one of the rare occasions where he found himself momentarily


But then his mouth went on autopilot.

“I can’t believe that you have the gall to show up here,” he said, para-

phrasing her greeting to him when he and Miller had first arrived at Quar-

ters Two.

“You are a sonofabitch, aren’t you?” Beth said.

“Actually, I’m a bastard,” he said. “There’s a difference. My mother was

a lady.”

“Are you going to ask me in? It’s raining out here, in case you didn’t


“Since I seriously doubt you came here with designs on my body, may I ask

why you want to come in?”

“I’m here to apologize,” she said, “and to ask a big favor.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I am not kidding.”

“You realize what will happen if you pass through this portal and Righteous

Randolph hears about it?”

“I’m asking you as nicely as I know how. Please. I’m getting soaked.”

“Won’t you come in, Miss Wilson?” Castillo asked, and opened the door


She entered the living room, took off her head scarf and then her rain-

coat. She was wearing a skirt and, under a sweater vest, a nearly transparent


Where are you now, Dick Miller, Self-Appointed Keeper of Castillo’s Morals, you

sonofabitch, when I really need you?

“Do you think this will take long, Miss Wilson?”

“It’ll take a little time.”

“In that case—you may have noticed that you’ve interrupted my toilette—

please excuse me for a moment while I slip into something more comfortable.”


7 5

When Castillo came out of the bedroom three minutes later—wearing slacks

and a sweater and shower thongs—Beth Wilson was sitting on the couch hold-

ing a copy of the Tages Zeitung.

“What’s this?” she said.

“They call that a newspaper.”

“It’s German.”

“I noticed.”

“What do you do, use this to keep your German up?”

“Keep my German up where?” Castillo asked innocently, and then took pity

on her. “My mother’s family was in the newspaper business. They send it to me.

And yeah, I read it to practice my German.”

She gave him a faint smile.

“Now that I am appropriately dressed,” Castillo said, “and in a posi-

tion to proclaim my innocence of even harboring any indecent thoughts

of any kind whatsoever should Randolph come bursting through the door,

his eyes blazing with righteousness, you mentioned something about an


“Randy’s on a cross-country, round-robin RON,” she said. “He won’t come

bursting through the door.”

A round robin was a flight that began and ended, after one or more inter-

mediate stops, at the same place. Cross-country meant what it sounded like.

RON stood for “Remain Over Night.”

“Oh, you speak aviation?” he said.

“My father is an aviator, you might recall.”

“Now that you mention it . . .”

She shook her head.

He went on: “Lieutenant Miller is also on that recruiting flight. Remem -

ber him? You met him, briefly—”

“Recruiting flight?”

“You mean you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“What they do when these splendid young fledgling birdmen are about to

finish their course of instruction and graduate—”

“Randy graduates next Friday,” she offered. “We’ll be married on Sunday

at three in Chapel One.”

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” Castillo said. “As I was saying, when

they are about to finish, they schedule one of those cross-country, round-robin

7 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

RON training flights you mention, with stops at Forts Benning, Stewart, and—

depending on the weather—either Knox or Bragg.

“Eight or ten—for that matter, two—Apaches coming in for a landing is a

sight that will impress young officers. Some of these fledgling birdmen will even

be bright enough to extrapolate from that that driving one such machine, and

getting flight pay to do so, would seem to be a far smarter way to serve one’s

country than mucking about in the mud, etcetera, as they are doing. They then

apply for flight training. This is called recruiting. Hence the term ‘recruit-

ing flights.’ ”

“I almost believe that.”

“Miss Wilson, there is no limit to what terrible things certain people will

do to further Army Aviation.”

She looked at him for a moment before smiling again.

“Well, anyway,” she said, “you don’t have to worry about Randy bursting

through your door. He called me from Fort Stewart about an hour ago.”

“And suggested you come over here and say ‘hi’ if you were bored?”

“God, you just don’t stop, do you?”

“Are we back to the apology, or have I said something that’s changed

your mind?”

“You’re making it hard, but I haven’t changed my mind.”

“Are you familiar with Ed McMahon, the entertainer, Miss Wilson?”

“Can you call me ‘Beth’?”

“Obviously, I can. The questions would seem to be Will I? and/or Why

should I?

“Because it would make things easier for me. And, yes, I know who McMa-

hon is. Why?”

“Because, Beth—”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Beth. Mr. McMahon said that drink is God’s payment for

hard work. And as I’ve worked hard all day—”

“Doing what?”

“I spent three hours in an Apache and two-thirty in a Mohawk. Thank you

for your interest. As I was saying, I worked hard all day, and in the shower I

was planning to accept my just pay the moment I was dry. But then you started

bonging at my door. So, what I am going to do now, while you rehearse your

apology, is make myself a drink.”

“All right.”

He went to the wet bar, took out a silver set of martini-making necessities

from the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, and very seriously set about


7 7

constructing himself a martini in the manner practiced by and passed on to him

by Brigadier General Bruce J. McNab.

This involved, among other things, rinsing out both the martini mixer and

the martini glass with vermouth before adding a precisely measured hefty

amount of Gilbey’s gin to the ice in the mixer. He then stirred the mixture pre-

cisely one hundred times before pouring it into two large, long-stemmed mar-

tini glasses and adding two pickled onions on a toothpick to each.

He took one of the martinis, very carefully placed it in the freezer, and

gently closed the freezer door. Then, carefully carrying the other martini, he

walked to the couch and sat down as far away from Beth Wilson as the couch

would permit.

He brought the glass to his lips, looked at her over the rim, and said, “You

may begin the apology.”

Then he took his first sip.

“Where’s mine?” she said.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“You are not going to offer me a drink? After that long Ed McMahon


“ ‘What work did you do today?’ is one question that pops to mind,”

Castillo said.

“I told you, I’m getting married on Sunday. I spent all day—with half a

dozen giggling women—getting ready.”

“I can see where that would be tiring,” Castillo said. “The next question is

a little delicate. Your father—”

“My father has a problem with alcohol,” she said. “Something about his me-

tabolism. My mother and I don’t.”

“And you want a martini?”

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble. I happened to notice you made two.”

“There is a reason for that. You know what they say about martinis.”

“I’ll bet you’re about to tell me.”

“Martinis are like a woman’s breasts,” Castillo said, solemnly. “One is not

enough, and three is too many.”

“My God! That’s disgusting! I can’t believe you said that to me!”

She could not, however hard she tried, completely restrain the smile that

came to her face.

“I made two because I planned to drink two,” Castillo said. “The idea of

making one for you never entered my mind.”

“Well, now that it has, are you going to give me one?”

“I’m not sure that would be wise.”

7 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Why not?”

“Well, if a couple of belts puts your father on a bicycle, there’s no telling

what one martini would do to you,” Castillo said. And then his mouth went

on autopilot: “You might, for example, tear off your clothes and throw your-

self into my arms.”

She looked at him incredulously for a moment, then got off the couch and

walked to the refrigerator, commenting en route, “Don’t hold your breath! My

God! You’re an absolute lunatic.”

She took the second martini out of the freezer and carried it back to the

couch. She extended it to him.

“Let’s start over, okay?”

He shrugged. “Why not?”

They tapped glasses. Both took a sip.

“I came here, Castillo—”

“I call you Beth and you call me Castillo? Is that the way to commence an


“I came here, Charley . . .”

“Better,” he said.

“. . . to apologize for my behavior at my house on Saturday . . .”

“And well you should. You nearly reduced poor Dick Miller to tears. He’s

very sensitive.”

She shook her head, took another sip of the martini, and went doggedly

on: “. . . and to ask a favor.”

“Well, that certainly explains why you felt you needed a drink. Asking a

favor—much less apologizing—to the likes of me has to be very difficult for

someone like you.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“You are a general’s daughter. You are not the first general’s daughter I . . .

have encountered.”

“Randy told me about her,” Beth said.

“Well, I’m sure that was fascinating. Did he manage to suggest that my be-

havior was ungentlemanly?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Well, my conscience is clear. From Day One I made it absolutely clear to

Daphne that I had no intention of marching up the aisle of the cadet chapel

with her the day after I graduated.”

“Daphne? Randy said her name was Jennifer.”

“Same story. Jennifer was before Daphne, but I made it perfectly clear to

her, too, that if she was looking for a husband, she was looking in the

wrong place.”


7 9

“Oh, you’re not only a sonofabitch, but you’re proud of being a son-


“No. As I said before, I am a bastard, not a sonofabitch.”

“I know why you and Randy don’t get along.”

“I don’t think so, but what does it matter? I accept your apology. Now,

what’s the favor you want?”

“I can’t believe you drank that already,” she said.

“Here is the proof,” he said, holding the martini glass upside down. “And

now I am going to have to make myself another, having let chivalry get in the

way of my common sense.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I gave you my second martini,” he said.

He got up and walked to the wet bar.

“You may ask me the favor,” he said, as he went to the freezer for another

frozen glass.

There were two glasses in the freezer. He looked at them a long moment,

and then took both out.

That would seem to prove that I am indeed the sonofabitch that she thinks

and Dick knowsI am.

But not to worry. Virtue will triumph.

If I so much as lightly touch her shoulder, she will throw the martini in my face

and then kick me with practiced skill in the scrotum.

He set about making a second duo of dry martini cocktails according to the

famous recipe of Brigadier General Bruce J. McNab.

Beth came across the room to where he stood.

He looked at her and then away.

“You might as well go sit back down,” he said, stirring the gin-and-ice mix-

ture. “You have had your ration of martinis.”

“My family likes, really likes, your family,” Beth said. “That was all they

talked about at breakfast.”

“And my family likes your family. Since both families are extraordinarily nice

people, why does that surprise you?”

“My mother and father are going to San Antonio. Did you know that?”

“Abuela told me.”


“My grandmother. Doña Alicia.”

“Why do they call her that?”

They don’t call her Abuela. Fernando and I do. It means ‘grandmother’ in

Spanish. They call our abuela ‘Doña Alicia’ as a mark of respect.”

“I’m going to marry Randy,” she said.

8 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“I seem to recall having heard that somewhere.”

“That will make Randy part of my family.”

“Yeah, I guess it will.”

“What I would like to do is patch things up between you and Randy.”

“There’s not much chance of that, Beth,” he said seriously, and their eyes

met again.

He averted his quickly, and very carefully poured the two glasses full.

“Starting with you being part of our wedding,” she said.

“Not a chance.”

“There’s going to be an arch of swords outside the chapel. I’m sure Randy—

you’re classmates—would love to have you be one of the . . . whatever

they’re called.”

“Beth, for Christ’s sake, no. I can’t stand the sonofabitch.”

“I thought you didn’t use that term. You preferred ‘bastard.’ ”

“I didn’t say I preferred it. I said that I wasn’t a sonofabitch because my

mother was the antithesis of a bitch.”

He met her eyes again, averted them, picked up his martini glass, and took

a healthy swallow.

“But you don’t mind being called a bastard?”

“I am a bastard,” he said, meeting her eyes. “There’s not much I can do

about it.”

“A bastard being defined as someone who is hardheaded? Arrogant? Infuri-

ating? And revels in it?”

“A bastard is a child born out of wedlock,” Castillo said.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “Your parents weren’t married?”

He shook his head.

He said: “The estimates vary that between fifty thousand and one hundred

fifty thousand children were born outside the bonds of holy matrimony to

German girls and their American boyfriends—some of whom were general

officers. I am one of those so born. I’m a lot luckier than any of the others I’ve

run into, but I’m one of them.”

“Because of your father, you mean?”

“No. Because of my mother. My father was only in at the beginning, so to

speak. Because of my mother. My mother was something special.”

“Why are you telling me this?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Possibly in the hope that it will send you fleeing before this

situation gets any more out of hand than it is.”

“I want to hear this,” she said. “Does my father know?”

“Your father is a very intelligent man. He’s probably put it all together by

now. Or your mother has. Or Abuela told them.”


8 1

He took another sip of his martini.

As Beth watched, she said, “That’s your second you’re gulping down,

you know.”

“I can count. And as soon as you leave, I will have the third.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me. What happened?”

“When my father finished flight school, they sent him to Germany, rather

than straight to Vietnam. They tried to do that, send kids straight from flight

school over there. The idea was that they would build some hours, be better pi-

lots when they got into combat. And while he was in Germany he met a Ger-

man girl, and here I am.”

“The sonofabitch!” Beth exploded.

“No. Now you’re talking about his madre—my Abuela—and she is indeed

another who is the antithesis of bitch.”

“He . . . made your mother pregnant and then just left? I don’t care if you

like it or not, that makes him a sonofabitch in my book. Oh, Charley, I’m so


“Hold the pity,” he said. “For one thing, we don’t know that he behaved dis-

honorably. For one thing, he didn’t know she was pregnant. He did promise her

he would write, and then never did. It is entirely possible that had he written,

and had she been able to reply that she was in the family way, he would have

done something about it. I like to think that’s the case. Genes are strong, and

he was my grandparents’ son. But he didn’t write, he didn’t know, and we’ll never

know whether or not he would have gone back to Germany when he came

home from Vietnam”—he drained his martini glass—“because he didn’t come

back from Vietnam.”

“Your poor mother,” Beth said. “How awful for her.”

“And it’s not as if my mother had to go scrub floors or stand under Lili Mar-

lene’s streetlamp to feed her bastard son,” Castillo said, just a little thickly. “She

was the eighteen-year-old princess in the castle, who’d made a little mistake that

no one dared talk about.

“Her father, my grandfather, was a tough old Hessian. He was a lieutenant

colonel at Stalingrad. He was one of the, quote, lucky ones, unquote—the

really seriously wounded who were evacuated just before it fell. He was also an

aristocrat. The family name is von und zu Gossinger. Not just ‘von’ and not just

‘zu.’ Both. That sort of thing is important in the Almanac de Gotha.”

“You sound as if you didn’t like him,” she said.

“Actually, I liked him very much. He was kind to me. What I think now is

that he wasn’t all that unhappy that an American, a Mexican-American with a

name like Jorge Castillo, had not come back to further pollute the von und zu

Gossinger bloodline.”

8 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

He met her eyes again, quickly averted them again, and reached for the other

full martini glass. She snatched it away before his hand touched it.

“You’ve had enough,” she said.

“That decision is mine, don’t you think?” Castillo asked, not very pleasantly.

She glowered at him. Then she put the glass to her mouth and drained it.

“Not anymore, it’s not,” she said.

“You’re out of your mind. You’ll pass out.”

“Finish the story,” she said.

“How the hell am I going to get you home?”

“Finish the story,” she repeated.

“That’s it.”

“How did you wind up in San Antonio?”


“Yeah, oh.”

He shrugged. “Well, my grandfather and my uncle Willi went off a bridge

on the autobahn, and that left my mother and me alone in the castle.”

“Why didn’t your mother try to get in contact with your father?”

“When he didn’t write or come back as he promised, I guess she decided

he didn’t want to. And I suspect that my grandfather managed to suggest

two or three thousand times that it was probably better that he hadn’t. I just

don’t know.”

“How did you get to San Antonio?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, you’ve heard that good luck comes in threes?”

“Of course.”

“A year or so after my grandfather and uncle Willi went off the bridge, my

mother was diagnosed with a terminal case of pancreatic cancer.”

“Oh, God!”

“At that point, my mother apparently decided that wetback Mexican rela-

tives in Texas would be better than no family at all for the soon-to-be orphan

son. So she went to the Army, which had been running patrols along the

East/West German border fence on our land. She knew a couple of officers, one

of them a major named Allan Naylor.”

“General Naylor?” she asked.

When Castillo nodded, she added, “He’s a friend of my father’s.”

“I am not surprised,” Castillo said. “Anyway, Naylor was shortly able to

tell her the reason that my father had not come back as promised was because

he was interred in the National Cemetery in San Antonio.” He paused, then—

his voice breaking—added: “So at least she had that. It wasn’t much, but she

had that.”


8 3

Beth saw tears forming. Her own watered.

He turned his face from hers and coughed to get his voice under control.

He then asked, “If I take a beer from the cooler, are you going to snatch it

away from me and gulp it down?”

“No,” she said softly, almost in a whisper.

He took a bottle of Schlitz from the refrigerator and twisted off the cap. As

he went to take a swig, raising it to his mouth, he lost enough of his balance so

that he had to quickly back up against the counter.

Without missing a beat, he went on, “So . . . so one day Major Allan

Naylor shows up in San Antonio, nobly determined to protect as well as he can

the considerable assets the German kid is about to inherit from the natural

avarice of the wetback family into which the German bastard is about to be


“Oh, Charley!”

“My grandfather was in New York on business, so Naylor had to deliver the

news to Doña Alicia that WOJG Jorge Castillo had left a love child behind in


“What happened?”

“She called my grandfather in New York, told him, and his reaction to

the news was that she was to do nothing until he could get back to Texas. He

didn’t want to be cruel, but, on the other hand, he didn’t want to open the

family safe to some German woman just because she claimed her bastard

was his son’s.”

“Oh, Charley!”

“You keep saying that,” Castillo said. He took another swig and went on:

“Couldn’t blame him. I’d have done the same thing. Asked for proof.”

“So how long did that take? Proving who you were?”

“Not long. Thirty minutes after she hung up on Grandpa, the Lear went

wheels-up out of San Antonio with Abuela and Naylor on it. They caught the

five-fifteen Pan American flight out of New York to Frankfurt that afternoon.

Abuela was at the Haus im Wald at eleven o’clock the next morning.”

“Haus in Wald? What’s that?”

“Means house in the woods. It’s not really a castle. Really ugly building.”

“Oh. And she went there?”

“And I didn’t want to let her in,” Castillo said, now speaking very carefully.

“My mother was pretty heavily into the sauce. What she had was very painful.

I was twelve, had never seen this woman before, and I was Karl Wilhelm von

und zu Gossinger. I was not about to display my drunken mother to some Mex-

ican from America.

8 4


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“So Abuela grabbed my arm and marched me into the house, and into

mother’s bedroom, and my mother, somewhat belligerently, said, ‘Who the

hell are you, and what are you doing in my bedroom?’ Abuela said she didn’t

speak German, so my mother switched to English and asked exactly the same

question. And Abuela said”—Castillo’s voice broke, and he started to sob—“and

Abuela said, ‘I’m Jorge’s mother, my dear, and I’m here to take care of you and

the boy.’ ”

He turned his back to Beth and she saw him shaking with sobs.

And she saw him raise the bottle of Schlitz.

And she ran to him to take it away from him.

And he didn’t want to give it up.

They wrestled for it, then he fell backward onto the floor, pulling the bot -

tle and Beth on top of him as he went down.

Neither remembered much of what happened after that, or the exact sequence

in which it happened.

Just that it had.

The next thing they both knew was Beth asking, “Charley, are you awake?”

“I’m afraid so. I was hoping it was a dream.”

“It’s half past ten,” she said.

“Time marches on.”

“My God!” she said. “What happened?”

“You don’t remember?”

“You sonofabitch!” she said, and swung at him.

He caught her wrist, and she fell on him.

“I told you not to call me that,” he said.

And then it happened again.


The Daleville Inn

Daleville, Alabama

2005 9 February 1992

The rain was coming down in buckets, and First Lieutenant C. G. Castillo, who

had gotten drenched going from the Apache to Base Ops and then drenched

again going from Base Ops to his car, got drenched a third time going from

where he had parked his car to the motel building.


8 5

The Daleville Inn was full of parents and wives who had come to see their

offspring and mates get their wings pinned on them, and one of these had in-

considerately parked in the slot reserved for Room 202.

As he walked past the car and started up the stairs to the second floor, the

car in his slot flashed its lights at him and then blew its horn.

He was tempted to go to the car and deliver a lecture on motel parking lot

courtesy, but decided that was likely to get out of hand and satisfied himself with

giving the driver the finger as he continued up the stairs.

He was standing at his door, patting the many pockets of his soaking-wet

flight suit in search of his key, when he heard someone bonging their way up

the steel stairs. Then he sensed someone standing behind him.

“I was just about to give up,” Beth Wilson said. “I’ve been sitting out there

since six.”

“I was afraid of this,” he said.

“Afraid that I’d be here?”

“Or that you wouldn’t,” he said.

“We have to talk, Charley.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Just talk. Nothing else.”

“Would you believe I expected you to say something like that?”

He found the key. He opened the door, waved her through it, followed her

in, closed the door, and only then turned the lights on.

“You could have turned them on before you pushed me in here,” Beth said.

“I almost fell over your wastebasket.”

“But no one saw the general’s daughter and the affianced of Righteous

Randolph in Castillo’s room, did they? As they would have had I turned the

lights on first.”

“You’re soaking wet,” Beth said. “Where have you been?”

“Where would you guess I’ve been, dressed as I am in my GI rompers?”

“You haven’t been flying?”

“Oh, yes, I have.”

“Randy called and said they were weathered in. That there was weather all

over this area and nobody could fly.”

“Except courageous seagulls and Pete Kowalski. He holds that coveted

green special instrument card which permits him to decide for himself

whether it’s safe to take off. He told me that it would be educational, and

it was.”

“Where were you?”

“The last leg was Fulton County to here. Can you amuse yourself while I

8 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

take a shower? We’re going flying again in the morning, and I’d rather not have

pneumonia when I do that.”

“Go ahead,” she said.

Beth was sitting on the couch with her legs curled up under her skirt when he

came into the living room, She was wearing another transparent blouse through

which he could see her brassiere.

I know she didn’t do that on purpose.

“I am now going to have a drink,” Castillo announced. “Not, I hasten to

add, a martini. We have learned our lesson about martinis, haven’t we?”

“I really wish you wouldn’t.”

“I’ve told you about Ed McMahon. And, oh boy, did I earn it today.”

“Do whatever you want.”

“I don’t think you really mean that,” he said.

“I meant about taking a drink.”


“And you knew it,” she said. “Goddamn you, Charley. You never quit.”

He made himself a stiff scotch on the rocks and carried it to the couch.

“You will notice I didn’t offer you one,” he said, raising the glass.

“I noticed. Thank you.”

“So what have you decided to do about Righteous?”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him that.”

“So what have you decided to do about He Who Is Nameless?”

“What do you mean, what am I going to do about him?”

“If I may dare to offer some advice, when you tell him you’ve thought

things over and the wedding is off, don’t mention what caused you to do some

serious reconsidering.”

“The wedding’s not off,” she said, surprised.

“You’re still going to marry him?”

“Of course. What did you think I was going to do, elope with you to

Panama City or someplace?”

“Aware of the risk of having you throw something at me, I have to tell you

that is not one of your options.”

“I never thought it was.”

“I’m glad we can agree on at least that,” Castillo said. “So you’re going

ahead with the wedding?”

“Why is that so hard for you to understand?”

“Think about it, Beth.”

“What happened last night was a mistake.”


8 7

“Yes, it was. It made me reconsider the merits of the Roman Catholic


“Now, what is that supposed to mean?”

“If you’re a Catholic—and all the Castillos but this one are devout Roman

Catholics—when you have sinned, all you have to do is go to confession. For-

give me, Father, for I have sinned. Convince the priest that you’re sorry, and he

grants you absolution, and all is forgiven. Clean slate. Forget it.”

“Well, at least you’re sorry about yesterday.”

“On a strictly philosophical, moral level, yeah. But Satan has his claws in

me, and on another level, I’m not sorry, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

“Does that mean you’re sorry or not?”

“I don’t like the prospect of having always to remember that I plied my fa-

ther’s buddy’s about-to-be-married daughter with martinis and had my wicked

way with her.”

“My God!”

“Not that I seem to recall there was much resistance involved.”

“You bastard !”

“You’re learning,” Castillo said, and sipped his scotch.

“It happened. What we have to do is decide what we’re going to do about it.”

“Is one of my options doing it again? The cow, so to speak, being already

out of the barn.”

“I won’t even respond to that. What I came to ask you is what I came to

ask you last night. Will you take a part in the wedding?”

“Jesus Christ! I’m a bastard, not a hypocrite!”

“My mother, this morning, said she was going to ask you. My father said it

probably wasn’t that good an idea. She told him to ask you. At supper he said

he couldn’t, because you were stuck someplace because of the weather. But he’ll

ask you tomorrow.”

“He won’t find me tomorrow, trust me.”

She didn’t reply.

He said, “I just can’t believe you’re going to marry Righteous. Just can’t

understand it.”

“I love him. Can you understand that?”


“It’s as simple as that, Charley. We have a lot in common. I understand him.

He understands me.”

“I don’t think he would understand what happened last night.”

“He’s never going to know what happened last night . . . is he?”

“As tempting as it is for me to consider having it whispered down the Long

Gray Line that Castillo nailed Righteous Randolph’s fiancée five days before they

8 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N

got hitched, I couldn’t do that to you or your parents. Our sordid little secret

will remain our sordid little secret.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Beth got off the couch and said, “I’ll say good night.”

“Good night.”

She walked to the door. He went with her.

She looked up at him.

“Thank you again,” she said. “Good luck.”

“You’re welcome again,” he said.

She took the lock off the door.

“Beth,” he said, very seriously. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t get your hopes up too high about the wedding night, the honeymoon.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ve seen Righteous in the shower. I’ve seen bigger you-know-whats on a


He held up his right hand with the thumb and index finger barely apart to

give her some idea of scale.

She swung her purse at him.

He caught her wrist.

She spit in his face . . . then fell into his arms.

She didn’t go home until it was almost midnight.

By then it had stopped raining.



Cairns Army Airfield

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1820 1 September 2005

The glistening white Gulfstream III taxied up to the visitors’ tarmac in front

of the Base Operations building. Waving wands, ground handlers directed it

into a parking space between two Army King Air turboprops.


8 9

Colonel Jake Torine looked out the cockpit window.

“Our reception committee apparently includes a buck general, Charley,” he

said. “You want me to do the talking?”

The reception committee walking toward them included four military

policemen and half a dozen other men in uniform. Three of them were

armed and wearing brassards on their sleeves, making Castillo think they

were probably the AOD, the FOD, and the OD, which translated to mean the

Air Officer of the Day, the Field Grade Officer of the Day, and the Officer

of the Day.

One of the others was a general officer, and another man was more than

likely his aide. Castillo hoped that a public information officer was not among

them, but that was a very real possibility.

Cairns had not wanted them to land, and they had had to declare an


“Please, Jake,” Castillo said. “And take Doherty with you. Maybe they’ll be

impressed with the FBI.”

He followed Torine into the passenger compartment.

“Jack,” he said to Inspector Doherty, “would you come flash your badge at

these people? They didn’t want us to land.”

Doherty nodded and stood up.

Castillo opened the stair door. Max came charging up the aisle, headed for

the door with Mädchen behind him. They pushed Torine out of the way and

jumped to the ground. Max ran to one of the King Airs and raised his leg at

the nose gear. Mädchen met the call of nature under the wing.

Torine went down the stairs and saluted the general.

“Torine, sir,” he said. “Colonel, USAF, attached to the Department of

Homeland Security. This is Inspector Doherty of the FBI. Would you like to

see our identification?”

“I think that would be a good idea, Colonel,” the general said.

Torine handed his identity card to the general. Doherty took out his cre-

dentials and held them open.

The general examined both carefully.

“Welcome to Fort Rucker,” he said. “I’m Brigadier General Crenshaw, the

deputy post commander.”

“I’m sorry about causing the fuss, sir,” Torine said. “But we had planned to

land at Hurlburt—”

“They took a pretty bad hit from Katrina,” General Crenshaw said.

“—and we were getting pretty low on fuel.”

“Where’d you come from?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s classified,” Torine said.

9 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“The reason I asked had to do with customs and immigration, Colonel.”

“We’ll do that when we get to Washington, sir. Presuming we can get fuel

from you.”

“That’s a civilian airplane,” General Crenshaw said.

“Sir, if you will contact General McNab at Special Operations Command,

I’m sure he’ll authorize you to fuel us.”

“You work for Scotty McNab, do you?”

“With him, sir.”

“Okay, Colonel. You have an honest face, and the FBI seems to be vouch-

ing for you. We’ll fuel you. Anything else we can do for you?”

“Two things, sir. Forget we were ever here, and . . . uh . . . the dogs aren’t

the only ones who need a pit stop.”

“They did have the urge, didn’t they?” General Crenshaw said. “Not a prob-

lem. We can even feed you.”

“Very kind of you, sir. We’ll pass on the food, but some coffee would be re-

ally appreciated.”

“Is there a problem with me having a look at your airplane?”

“None at all, sir,” Torine said, and waved the general toward the door stairs.

Castillo stepped away from the door as Crenshaw mounted the steps.

“Hello,” Crenshaw said to him as he stepped inside. “Who are you?”

“I’m the copilot, sir.”

“Air Force?”

“Secret Service.”

Crenshaw studied him a moment, then nodded. Then he raised his voice

to those in the cabin:

“Although I understand you’re not here, gentlemen, welcome to Cairns

Army Airfield and the Army Aviation Center. If you’d care to use our facilities

while you’re here, we’ll throw in coffee and doughnuts.”

Then he turned to Castillo again.

“Where’d you learn how to fly? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“In Texas, sir.”

Crenshaw looked at him again, then nodded, and went down the stairs.

Did he remember my face from somewhere?

He didn’t ask my name.

My replies to his questions weren’t the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but

the truth, but I really did learn to fly in Texas, rather than here, which is what I

think he was asking. And I have bona fide credentials of a Secret Service supervi-

sory agent in my pocket.

So why am I uncomfortable?




Because while I’m wildly out of step with others in the Long Gray Line, I’m still

in it. And a cadet does not lie, or cheat, or tolerate those who do.

How the hell did a nice young West Pointer like me wind up doing what

I’m doing?

Thirty-five minutes later, Cairns departure control cleared Gulfstream Three

Seven Nine for immediate takeoff.



Signature Flight Support, Inc.

Baltimore–Washington International Airport

Baltimore, Maryland

2205 1 September 2005

A black Chevrolet sedan with a United States Customs and Border Protec-

tion Service decal on the door and four identical dark blue GMC Yukon XL

Denalis were waiting for the Gulfstream III when it taxied up to the Signa-

ture tarmac.

Two uniformed customs officers got out of the Chevrolet sedan and walked

across the tarmac toward the aircraft. Major H. Richard Miller, Jr., in civilian

clothing, slid gingerly out of the front seat of the first Yukon in the line, turned

and retrieved a crutch, stuck it under his arm, and moved with surprising agility

after them.

As soon as the stair door opened into place, one of the customs officers, a

gray-haired man in his fifties, bounded quickly up it, then stopped, exclaimed,

“Jesus Christ!” and then backed up so quickly that he knocked the second cus-

toms officer, by then right behind him, off the stairs and then fell backward

onto him.

Max appeared in the door, growling deeply and showing an impressive array

of teeth. Mädchen moved beside him and added her voice and teeth to the


9 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo appeared in the door.

“Gentlemen,” he said, solemnly, “you have just personally witnessed the Of-

fice of Organizational Analysis Aircraft Anti-Intrusion Team in action.”

The gray-haired customs officer gained his feet, glared for a moment at the

stair door, and then, shaking his head, smiled.

“Very impressive, Colonel,” he said, finally.

“They’re okay, Max,” Castillo said, in Hungarian. “You may now go piss.”

Max looked at him, stopped growling, went down the stairs, and headed

for the nose gear. Mädchen went modestly to the other side of the fuselage.

“You all right?” Castillo said.

“What the hell kind of dogs are they?” the gray-haired customs officer asked.

“Bouvier des Flandres,” Castillo said.

The customs officer shook his head. “What do they weigh?” he asked.

“Max has been known to hit one-thirty-five, Mädchen maybe one-ten.”

“You understand, Colonel, sir,” Miller said, “that you may now expect these

gentlemen to really search your person and luggage?”

“What I’m hoping you’ll say, Colonel,” the customs officer said, “is

that you’re going to show me evidence that you passed through customs some-

place else.”

“No,” Castillo said. “We were going to do that at Hurlburt Field, but the

hurricane got Hurlburt. We refueled at Fort Rucker, but we have to do the cus-

toms and immigration here.”

“Everybody aboard American?”

“No,” Castillo replied, and waved them onto the Gulfstream. “No more sur-

prises, I promise.”

“Welcome to the United States,” the large customs officer said when he had

stepped into the cabin. “Or welcome home, whichever the case may be. There

would be a band, but I have been led to believe that everybody would prefer to

enter the United States as quietly as possible. What we’re going to do is collect

the American passports and run them through the computers in the main ter-

minal. Then—presuming the computer doesn’t tell us there are outstanding

warrants on anybody—they will be returned to you and you can be on

your way.”

He looked around the cabin and continued: “I just learned that some of you

are not American citizens, which means that we’ll have to check your visas. I

think we can run them through the computers without any trouble, but I think

we’d better have a look at them before we try to do that. Understood?”


9 3

When there were nods, he pulled a heavy plastic bag from his pocket and

finished his speech: “And if any of you are carrying forbidden substances, not

only mood-altering chemicals of one kind or another but raw fruits and veg-

etables, any meat product not in an unopened can—that sort of thing—now

is the time to deposit them in this bag.”

“As my patriotic duty,” Castillo said, “I have to mention that the cigarettes

that Irishman has been smoking don’t smell like Marlboros.”

He pointed. The customs officer looked.

“And I’ve seen his picture hanging in the post office, too,” the customs of-

ficer said, and walked to the man with his hand extended. “How are you, Jack?

And what the hell are you doing with this crew?”

“Hoping nobody sees me,” Inspector Doherty said. “And what are you

doing in a uniform?”

“The director of National Intelligence suggested it would be appropriate.”

“Say hello to Edgar Delchamps,” Doherty said. “I’ll vouch for him. Use your

judgment about the others. Ed, this is Chief Inspector Bob Mitchell.”

The men shook hands.

“You’re with the bureau?” Mitchell asked.

“Ed’s the exception to the rule about people who get paid from Langley,”

Doherty said. “When he shakes your hand, Bob, you get all five fingers back.”

“Actually, I’m with the Fish and Wildlife Service,” Delchamps said.

Mitchell chuckled.

The other customs officer handed Mitchell several passports.

“Take a look at these, Inspector,” he said. “When was the last time you saw

a handwritten, non-expiring, multivisit visa signed by an ambassador?”

“It’s been a while,” Mitchell said. He looked at the passports and added, “An

Argentine, a German, and two Hungarians. All issued the same day in Buenos

Aires. Interesting. I’d love to know what’s going on here.”

“But you were told not to ask, right?” Doherty said. “Sorry, Bob.”

“We also serve who look but do not see or ask questions,” Mitchell said.

“Well, I think I had better run these through the computer myself. I’m sure all

kinds of warning bells and whistles are going to go off.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mitchell,” Castillo said.

“I always try to be nice to people I feel sorry for, Colonel,” Mitchell said.

“Excuse me?”

“I bear a message from our boss, Colonel. The ambassador said, quote, Ask

Colonel Castillo to please call me the minute he gets off the airplane, unquote.”

“Oh. I see what you mean.”

“That’s the first time I can remember the ambassador saying ‘please.’ ”

9 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“That’s probably because he’s not my boss,” Castillo replied. “He just thinks

he is.”

“That’s probably even worse, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” Castillo agreed.

Mitchell smiled and nodded.

“Okay, this’ll take ten or fifteen minutes. You can start unloading whatever

you have to unload.”

“Thank you,” Castillo said.

“Consider it your hearty meal for the condemned man,” Mitchell said,

shook his hand, and went to the stair door.

Castillo turned to Miller.

“So where do I find a secure phone?”

“There’s one in your Yukon.”

“I said a secure phone.”

“And I said, Colonel, sir, ‘In your Yukon,’ ” Miller said, and made a grand

gesture toward the stair door.

Miller motioned for Castillo to precede him into the backseat of one of the dark

blue Yukons. Then, not without difficulty, he stowed his crutch, got in beside

him, and closed the door.

There was a telephone handset mounted on the rear of the driver’s seat

in the Yukon. Except for an extraordinarily thick cord, it looked like a perfectly

normal handset.

“That’s secure?” Castillo asked.

“Secure and brand-new,” Miller replied. “A present from your pal Aloysius.”


“He called up three or four days ago, asked of your general health and wel-

fare, then asked if there was anything he could do for us. I told him I couldn’t

think of a thing. He said he had a new toy he thought you might like to play

with, one in its developmental phase.”

Miller pointed at the telephone.

“So yesterday, I was not surprised when the Secret Service guy said there

were some people from AFC seeking access to your throne room in the com-

plex. I was surprised when they came up to see that one of them was Aloysius

in the flesh.”

Aloysius Francis Casey (Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, MIT) was a small, pale-

faced man who customarily dressed in baggy black suits. He also was the


9 5

founder, chairman of the board, and principal stockholder of the AFC Corpo-

ration. AFC had a vast laboratory and three manufacturing facilities that pro-

vided a substantial portion of worldwide encrypted communications to industry

in the form of leased technology.

During the Vietnam War, then-Sergeant Casey had served with distinction

as the commo man on several Special Forces A-Teams. He had decided, im-

mediately after the First Desert War, that it was payback time. Preceded by a

telephone call from the senior U.S. senator from Nevada, he had arrived at Fort

Bragg in one of AFC’s smaller jets and explained to then–Major General Bruce

J. McNab that, save for the confidence that being a Green Beanie had given him,

he would almost certainly have become either a Boston cop—or maybe a post-

man—after his Vietnam service.

Not that Casey found either occupation wanting.

Instead, he said, his Green Beanie service had given him the confidence to

attempt the impossible. In his case, he explained, that meant getting into MIT

without a high school diploma on the strength of his self-taught comprehen-

sion of both radio wave propagation and cryptographic algorithms.

“A professor,” Casey had said, “took a chance on a scrawny little Irishman

with the balls to ask for something like getting into MIT and arranged for me

to audit classes. By the end of my freshman year, I got my high school diploma.

By the end of my second year, I had my BS. The next year, I got my master’s

and started AFC. By the time I got my doctorate two years later, AFC was up

and running. The professor who gave me my chance—Heinz Walle—is now

AFC’s vice president of research and development. I now have more money than

I can spend, so it’s payback time.”

General McNab had asked him exactly what he had in mind. Dr. Casey

replied that he knew the Army’s equipment was two, three years obsolete be-

fore the first piece of it was delivered.

“What I’m going to do is see that Special Forces has state-of-the-art stuff.”

General McNab said that was a great idea, but as Sergeant/Dr. Casey must

know, procurement of signal equipment was handled by Signal Corps pro-

curement officials, over whom Special Forces had absolutely no control.

“I’m not about to get involved trying to sell anything to those paper-pushing

bastards,” Dr. Casey had said. “What I’m going to do is give you the stuff and

charge it off to R&D.”

General McNab was never one to pass up an opportunity, and asked, “It

sounds like a great idea. How would you suggest we get started?”

Dr. Casey had then jerked his thumb at General McNab’s aide-de-camp,

Second Lieutenant C. G. Castillo, who had met Dr. Casey’s Lear at Pope AFB.

Because General McNab had better things to do with his time than enter-

9 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

tain some [expletive deleted] civilian with friends in the [expletive deleted] U.S.

Senate any further than buying the [expletive deleted] lunch, Lieutenant Castillo

had taken Dr. Casey on a helicopter tour of Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North

Carolina, until lunchtime.

By the time they landed on the Officers’ Club lawn, Dr. Casey had learned

the young officer had earned both the pilot’s wings and Combat Infantry Badge

sewn to his BDU jacket and decided he was one tough and smart little son-


“What about me taking the boy wonder here back to Vegas with me after

lunch? He can see what we have and what you need, and we can wing it

from there.”

“Charley,” General McNab had ordered Lieutenant Castillo, “go pack a

bag. And try to stay out of trouble in Las Vegas.”

“Aloysius had this put in?” Castillo asked, picking up the handset.

“You’re not listening, Colonel, sir,” Dick Miller said. “Aloysius put it in with

his own freckled fingers.”

“White House,” the handset announced.

“Jesus!” Castillo said.

“I’m afraid he’s not on the circuit,” the White House operator said. “Any-

one else you’d like to speak to?”

“This line is secure?” Castillo asked, doubtfully.

“This line is secure.”

“I’ll be damned!”

“If you keep up the profanity, you probably will be, Colonel.”

“How do you know I’m a Colonel?” Castillo said.

“Because this link is listed as Colonel Castillo’s Mobile One,” the operator

said, “and because the voice identification circuit just identified you as Colonel

Castillo himself.”

“I will be damned.”

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” the operator said. “And aside from Major Miller,

you’re the first call we’ve handled. Even my boss is amazed. Can I put you

through to someone, Colonel? Or are you just seeing how it works?”

“Ambassador Montvale on a secure line, please.”


“Good evening, sir. Castillo.”


9 7

“Didn’t take you long to find a secure line, did it, Charley? You’ve been on

the ground only twelve minutes.”

“Well, I’m using the one in my Yukon.”

“Then this is not a secure line?”

“The White House assures me it’s secure, sir.”

“In your truck?”

“Yes, sir. Don’t you have a secure line in your vehicle?”

There was a pause, which caused Castillo to smirk at the mental image he

had of the face that Montvale was now making.

“We’ll talk about that when I see you,” Montvale said. “How long is it

going to take you to get to your Alexandria house?”

“Well, I think we can leave here in fifteen minutes or so. And then how-

ever long it takes to get to the house. I’ve never been there.”

“Who’s with you, Charley?” Montvale asked, and then before Castillo could

answer, went on: “Bring everybody with you who might know something about

the possible compromise.”

“I gather that you mean, sir, to the house in Alexandria?”

“Are there any problems with that?”

“None, sir, except—”

“You and I are meeting with the President at eight o’clock tomorrow morn-

ing,” Montvale interrupted. “I don’t want to meet him unprepared. Any prob-

lems with that?”

“Inspector Doherty was just on the phone to his wife, telling her he’d be

right home.”

“Well, I especially want to see him. Have him call her back and tell her he’s

being delayed. I want everybody at your house.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Ambassador, but isn’t there an agreement between us that

you don’t give me orders?”

“For the moment, there is,” Montvale said, icily. “Let me rephrase. I’ll be

grateful, Colonel, for the opportunity to meet with you and everybody with

knowledge of the possible compromise at your earliest convenience. Say in ap-

proximately one hour in Alexandria?”

“I’ll do my best to have everyone there as soon as possible, Mr. Ambas-


There was a click on the line as Montvale hung up without saying any-

thing else.

Castillo put the handset in its cradle.

“I didn’t see Doherty using his cellular,” Miller said.

“Either did I,” Castillo said.

9 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“You just like to pull the tiger’s tail, right?”

“If I don’t, Dick, I’d find myself asking permission to take a leak.”

“Yeah,” Miller said thoughtfully after a moment. Then he asked, “What has

to go to the complex?”

“Not that much. One filing cabinet just about full of paper. And then a

dozen external hard drives. What do I do about the weapons?”

“I’d take them to the house,” Miller said.

“Okay,” Castillo said.

“You heard all this, Stan?” Miller asked the Secret Service driver.

“Uh-huh. I’ll take care of it.”

“Somebody’ll have to sit on the filing cabinet and the hard drives,” Castillo

said. “Unless we can get everything into the vault tonight.”

“I think I’ll have somebody sit on the vault, Colonel, after we get every-

thing inside.”

“Thank you,” Castillo said.


7200 West Boulevard Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

2325 1 September 2005

The first impression Castillo had of the new property was that it was a typi-

cal Alexandria redbrick two-story home. The exception being, perhaps, the

size of its lot; the front lawn was at least one hundred yards from West Boule-

vard Drive.

But his first impression changed as the Yukon rolled up the driveway.

Castillo saw that the rise in the lawn concealed both a circular drive in

front of the house and a large area in front of the basement garage on the right.

There was another Yukon XL parked there, and a Buick sedan, but there was

still room enough for the three Yukons in the convoy to park easily.

The Yukon’s probably Montvale’s. He’s too exalted to drive a lowly Buick, par-

ticularly since a Yukon with a Secret Service driver from the White House pool is

the status symbol in Washington.

And if it is his, he’s waiting for me in the living room, in the largest chair, fi-

nally having succeeded in summoning me to the throne room.

As the first Yukon reached the house, the triple garage doors opened one

by one. The Secret Service driver of Castillo’s Yukon drove inside the garage and

the other two followed suit. The doors began to close.


9 9

The garage ran all the way under the house. There was room for three more

Yukons. And some other vehicles. The walls were lined with shelves, and on

them were old cans of paint, coils of water hose, and other things that people

stored in garages.

Well, Miller told me that the kids of the people who owned this place had re-

moved the valuable stuff.

Paint cans and water hoses don’t count as valuable stuff.

There were two familiar faces standing at the foot of an extraordinarily

wide basement-to-house stairway. One of them, a large, red-haired Irishman,

was Secret Service Supervisory Special Agent Thomas McGuire, who had joined

the Office of Organizational Analysis at its beginning. The other was Mrs.

Agnes Forbison, a gray-haired, getting-just-a-little-chubby lady in her late for-

ties who had been one of then–Secretary of Homeland Security Matt Hall’s ex-

ecutive assistants and who also had joined OOA at its beginning. Her title now

was OOA’s deputy chief for administration.

Well, the Buick is probably Agnes’s and the Yukon Tom’s.

So where is the ambassador?

Castillo got out of the Yukon and walked to them.

He and McGuire shook hands. Agnes kissed his cheek.

“Montvale?” Castillo asked.

“I expect he’ll be here shortly,” Agnes said, and then, “Jesus, Mary,

and Joseph!”

Max and Mädchen had been freed from one of the other Yukons and made

right for them.

“This is Max and his lady friend, Mädchen,” Castillo explained.

Agnes squatted and rubbed Max’s ears.

“Pretty puppy,” she said.

Mädchen shouldered Max out of the way.

“And you, too, sweetheart!” Agnes added, now rubbing Mädchen’s ears.

Tom McGuire eyed both animals warily.

“Montvale’s meeting us here,” Castillo said.

“You didn’t think he would be waiting for you, did you, Chief?” Agnes

said, looking up at him, and then added, “We bought everything we could think

of. Except, of course, dog food.”

“If you bought a rib roast, that’d do,” Castillo said.

Agnes stood up.

“You want a look around before the ambassador gets here?” she asked.

“Please,” Castillo said. “How many beds do we have?”

“How many do you need?”

1 0 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“That many,” Castillo said, pointing to the others, who were now standing

around the Yukons. “Less Doherty, who’ll probably go home.”

Agnes used her index finger to count Colonel Jake Torine, USAF; First

Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer, USA; Corporal Lester Bradley, USMC; Sergeant

Major John K. Davidson, USA; Colonel Alfredo Munz; Edgar Delchamps;

Special Agent David W. Yung of the FBI; Sándor Tor; and Eric Kocian.

“Not counting Inspector Doherty,” she computed aloud, “that’s nine, plus

you and Dick. That’s a total of eleven. No problem. There’s six bedrooms all

with double beds. One of you will actually be alone.”

“That would be me, madam,” Eric Kocian announced, advancing on her.

“The sacrifices I am willing to make to contribute to this enterprise do not in-

clude sharing a bedroom.”

“Mrs. Forbison, Eric Kocian,” Castillo said.

“I am charmed, madam,” Kocian said, taking the hand Agnes extended

and raising it to his lips.

From the look on her face—the pleased look—I think it’s been some time since

she has had her hand kissed.

“I hope you will not take offense, madam,” Kocian went on, “if I say I have

urgent need of a restroom, preferably one inside?”

“We’ll put you in my room, Billy,” Castillo said. “I’ll bunk with Miller.”

“Splendid!” Kocian said.

“Has this place got a fenced backyard?” Castillo asked.

“Uh-huh,” Agnes said.

“If you’ll show me that, I’ll put Max and Mädchen out, and Tom can show

the old gentleman to his quarters—”

“Old gentleman!” Kocian snorted.

“—and then we can get everybody settled in before we have to face the


Agnes’s tour of the house ended in a small study. Bookcases lined three of its

walls. A stuffed mallard and two stuffed fish—a trout and a king mackerel—

were mounted on the remaining wall. There were a few books scattered on the

shelves, mostly ten-year-old and older novels. Windows opened to the left and

rear. Through it, Castillo saw that floodlights around a decent-sized swimming

pool had been turned on. Max was happily paddling about in the pool while

Mädchen stood on the side and barked at him.

The study was furnished with a small desk, a well-worn blue leather judge’s

chair, and a soiled, well-worn chaise lounge, none of which had obviously

struck the heirs as worth taking.


1 0 1

There was a telephone on the desk, but Castillo didn’t pay much attention

to it until it buzzed and a red light began to flash on its base. Then he saw the

thick cord that identified it as a secure telephone.

Agnes picked it up.

“C. G. Castillo’s line,” she said, then, “Yes, the colonel is available for Am -

bassador Montvale,” and handed him the phone.


“Charles Montvale, Colonel. We will be at your door in approximately

five minutes.”

“I’m looking forward to it, sir,” Castillo replied, and then, when a click told

him that Montvale had hung up, added, “about as much as I would visiting an

Afghan dentist with a foot-powered drill.”

Agnes looked at him.

“I gather you’re speaking from experience?”

“Painful experience,” Castillo said. “With both.”

“How do you want to handle this?”

“I will receive the ambassador in here, where he will find me carefully study -

ing my computer, which I will close when he enters. Have everybody but Ko-

cian, Tor, Bradley, and, of course, Lieutenant Lorimer in the living room. We’ll

have to bring chairs from the kitchen or someplace else for them, I guess.”

The living room had a beamed ceiling, a brick fireplace, and hardwood

floors. There were two small and rather battered carpets that the children of the

former owner also had apparently decided were not of value to them. Marks

on the floor showed where the valuable carpets had lain, and marks on the wall

showed where picture frames had hung.

There were four red leather armchairs and a matching couch that also had

apparently missed the cut, although they looked fine to Castillo. Another stuffed

trout was mounted above the fireplace, and there was some kind of animal

hoof—maybe an elk’s, Castillo guessed—converted into an ashtray that sat on

a heavy and battered coffee table scarred with whiskey glass rings and ciga-

rette burns.

Castillo had decided he probably would have liked the former owners. He

was already feeling comfortable in their house.

“Ambassador Montvale, Colonel,” Agnes announced from the study door five

minutes later.

Castillo closed the lid of his laptop and stood up.

“Please come in, Mr. Ambassador,” he said.

Montvale wordlessly shook his hand.

1 0 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“I haven’t had a chance to make this place homey,” Castillo said. “The

chaise lounge all right? Or would you rather sit in that?”

He pointed to the judge’s chair.

“This’ll be fine, thank you,” Montvale said, and sat at the foot of the

chaise lounge.

It was a very low chaise lounge. Montvale’s knees were now higher than

his buttocks.

“Getting right to it, Charley,” Montvale said. “How bad is the compro-

mise situation?”

“I think it’s under control.”

“I’d be happier if you said you’re confident it’s under control.”

Think is the best I can do for now. Sorry.”

“Tell me what’s happened, and then I’ll tell you why it’s so dangerous.”

“We were all watching Hurricane Katrina on the television when Corporal

Bradley marched in with a guy at gunpoint, a guy Max had caught coming

through the fence—”

“Max?” Montvale interrupted. “Who the hell is Max?”

Castillo walked to the window and pointed.

Less than gracefully, Montvale got to his feet, joined him at the window,

and looked out.

Max had tired of his swim, climbed out of the pool, and in the moment

Montvale looked out, was shaking himself dry.

“You could have said, ‘Our watchdog,’ Charley,” Montvale said disapprov-

ingly. Then curiosity overwhelmed him. “God, he’s enormous! What is he?”

They are Bouvier des Flandres. There’s a pretty credible story that Hitler

lost one of his testicles to one of them when he was Corporal Schickelgruber

in Flanders. It is a fact that when he went back to Flanders as Der Führer he

ordered the breed eliminated.”

“Fascinating,” Montvale said as he walked to the judge’s leather chair and

sat down. “It is also a fact that when Hitler was a corporal he was Corporal

Hitler. That Schickelgruber business was something the OSS came up with dur-

ing World War Two. It’s known as ridiculing your enemy.”

“Really?” Castillo said, then thought: You sonofabitch, you grabbed my chair!

Well, I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to sit on that chaise lounge and look up

at you.

Castillo leaned on the wall beside the window and folded his arms over

his chest.

“Trust me,” Montvale said. “It’s a fact. Now, getting back to what hap-

pened after that outsized dog caught the guy . . .”


1 0 3

“He turned out to be an assistant military attaché in our embassy in Asun-

ción, Paraguay. First Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer. Formerly of Special Forces,

now of Intelligence. One of his pals, a DEA agent—”


“I can get it from Lorimer, if it’s important to you.”

“Lorimer? Any connection with our Lorimers?”

“Just a coincidence.”

“Where is this chap?”


“Go on.”

“Well, Lorimer is clever. He put together all the gossip, and when the drug

guys kidnapped his DEA agent pal, he decided that Colonel Costello—getting

my name wrong was about the only mistake he made—was just the man who

could play James Bond and get back his pal. And he came looking for me. And

found me.”

“Charley, how would you go about getting this DEA agent back?”

“I don’t know how—or if—that could be done. And I haven’t given it any

thought because it’s none of my business.”

“You have no idea how pleased I am that you realize that,” Montvale said.

“It is none of your business, and I strongly recommend you don’t forget that.”

Castillo didn’t reply, but his face clearly showed that Montvale’s comment

interested him.

Montvale nodded in reply, indicating that he was about to explain himself.

“Senator Homer Johns came to see me several days ago,” Montvale

said. “The junior senator from New Hampshire? Of the Senate Intelligence


Castillo nodded to show that he knew of Johns.

“He told me that the day before he had spoken with his brother-in-law . . .”

Montvale paused for dramatic effect, then went on. “. . . who is the President’s

envoy plenipotentiary and extraordinary to the Republic of Uruguay, Ambas-

sador Michael A. McGrory.”

He paused again.

“I think I now have your full attention, Charley, don’t I?”

Castillo chuckled and nodded.

“This is not a laughing matter,” Montvale said, waited for that to register,

and then went on: “There are those who think McGrory owes his present job

to the senator. His career in the State Department had been, kindly, mediocre

before he was named ambassador to Uruguay.

“The senator said he was calling to send his sister best wishes on her birth-

1 0 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

day. In the course of their conversation, however, the ambassador just hap-

pened to mention—possibly to make the point that there he was on the front

line of international diplomacy, proving he indeed was worthy of the influence

the senator had exercised on his behalf—the trouble he was having with the

Uruguayan Foreign Ministry.

“Specifically, he said that shortly after a drug dealer, one Dr. Jean-Paul

Lorimer, an American employed by the UN, had been assassinated on his es-

tancia, the deputy foreign minister had made an unofficial call on him, during

which he as much as accused the ambassador of concealing from him that the

assassins were American Special Forces troops.”

“Ouch!” Castillo said.

“Indeed,” Montvale replied. “According to Senator Johns, the ambassador

proudly related how he had dealt with the situation. McGrory apparently threw

the deputy foreign minister out of his office. But then Johns—the senator said

his curiosity was piqued—had a chat with the Uruguayan ambassador here in

D.C., who assured him Lorimer’s murder had been thoroughly investigated by

the Uruguayan authorities, who were convinced that it was drug related, as was

the death of another American, one Howard Kennedy, who was found beaten

to death in the Conrad Hotel in Punta del Este. The ambassador told the sen-

ator, off the record, that there was reason to believe Kennedy was associated with

your good friend Aleksandr Pevsner, who he had heard is in that part of the

world, and that Pevsner was probably behind everything.”

“And what do you think Senator Johns believes?” Castillo asked.

“I don’t know what he believes. I think he suspects that something took

place down there that his brilliant brother-in-law doesn’t know, something that

the government of Uruguay would just as soon sweep under the rug . And I sus-

pect that the senator would love to find out that the President sent Special

Forces down there.”

“He didn’t. He sent me.”

“That’s splitting a hair, Charley, and you know it. The question, then, is is

your operation going to be blown?”

“I don’t think so—”

“There’s that word ‘think’ again,” Montvale interrupted.

“I don’t think there will be any trouble starting in Uruguay,” Castillo said.

“The head of the Interior Police Division of the Uruguayan Policía Nacional ,

Chief Inspector José Ordóñez—I thought I told you this.”

“Tell me again,” Montvale said.

“Ordóñez was at the Conrad when we got there. He actually took us to see

the bodies—”


1 0 5

“Bodies? Plural?”

“Plural. The other one was Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Zhdankov of

the FSB’s Service for the Protection of the Constitutional System and the

Fight against Terrorism. Delchamps told Ordóñez who it was, and Ordóñez

made the point that Delchamps was wrong, that Zhdankov was a Czech busi-

nessman. Quietly, Ordóñez said it would provide problems for him, and the

Uruguayan government, if he had to start investigating the murders of a senior

Russian intelligence officer and a man known to have close ties to Aleksandr


Now it was Castillo’s turn to let what he had said sink in.

After a moment, Montvale nodded thoughtfully.

Castillo went on: “Ordóñez then said his investigation of the bodies at

Lorimer’s estancia had made him believe that it was another drug deal gone

wrong, that he doubted that any arrests would be made, and that for all prac-

tical purposes the case was closed. He added that he thought it would be a good

idea for us to leave Uruguay right then and stay away until all the, quote, bad

memories, unquote, had a chance to fade.”

“And you think he knows the truth?”

“The first time I told you about this—and now I remember when I did—

I told you that he’s a very smart cop and has a very good idea of exactly what

happened. That’s why I—here comes that word again, sorry— think that we’re

safe as far as Uruguay is concerned.”

“And in Argentina? You left bodies lying around there, too.”

“Munz says he thinks the Argentine government would like the whole busi-

ness—Masterson’s murder in particular, but what happened in the Sheraton

garage, too—forgotten. Munz—and I remember telling you this, too—says he

thinks the Argentine government is perfectly happy to chalk up the Sheraton

shooting to drug dealers; their alternative being investigating what Lieutenant

Colonel Yevgeny Komogorov of the FSB was doing with a Uzi in his hand

when he got blown away in the garage. They couldn’t keep that out of the


Montvale considered that, grunted, and asked. “Where is Munz?”

“In the living room with the others.”

“Delchamps, too?”

“You said ‘everybody,’ Ambassador.”

“Let’s go talk to them,” Montvale said, and then, as if remembering Castillo

didn’t like being ordered around, added: “I’d like confirmation of what you told

me, Charley. No offense.”

“None taken.”

1 0 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Or would you rather ask them to come in here?”

Castillo pushed himself away from the wall and gestured toward the door.

The battered coffee table in the living room now held a bottle of Famous

Grouse, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, and a cheap plastic water pitcher, telling

Castillo the odds were that he now was entertaining everybody with his liquor

stock from his vacated suite in the Mayflower Hotel.

“Keep your seats, gentlemen,” Montvale ordered somewhat grandly and

entirely unnecessarily, as nobody in the room showed the slightest indication

of wanting to stand up for any reason.

They all looked at him, however, as he scanned the room and finally selected

the fireplace as his podium. He was tall enough so that he could rest his elbow

on the mantel. He was seeking to establish an informal, friendly ambience. He

failed. Everyone knew what his relationship with Castillo was.

“The situation is this, gentlemen,” Montvale began. “Senator Johns has an

inkling of what went on in Uruguay and Argentina. Colonel Castillo tells me

that he doesn’t think the operation has been compromised. I’m concerned about

a possible serious embarrassment to the President, and therefore I’d like to be

sure that it’s not going to blow up in our faces.”

No one responded.

“Mr. Delchamps? Would you care to comment?”

Delchamps took a healthy swallow of his drink.

“I vote with Charley,” he said simply. “Thirty minutes after the kid marched

Lorimer into the living room, Charley ordered the shutdown, and we were out

of Argentina within hours. Charley ordered what I thought were exactly the

right actions to shut the mouths of anyone else who might be theorizing. But

shit happens. This may get compromised. I just don’t think it will.”

Delchamps looked at the others in the room, who nodded their agreement.

Montvale chuckled.

“Did I say something funny?” Delchamps challenged.

“Oh, no. Not at all,” Montvale said quickly. “What I was thinking was it’s

really a rather amusing situation. What we have in this room are very skilled,

highly experienced intelligence officers, enjoying the confidence of the Presi-

dent, who were nonetheless forced to shut down their operation—what did you

say, you were ‘out of Argentina within hours’?—because of one unimportant

little lieutenant who had no idea what he was sticking his nose into. You’ll have

to admit, that is rather amusing.”

No one else seemed to find it amusing.


1 0 7

Delchamps took another swallow of his drink, looked thoughtful—if not

annoyed—for a moment, then shrugged his shoulders.

“Let me tell you about that unimportant little lieutenant, Mr. Montvale,”

he said, an edge to his tone.

“Please do,” Montvale said sarcastically.

“Jack Doherty and I had a long talk with him on the trip from B.A.,”

Delchamps said. “It’s not that he was running at the mouth . . . even willing to

talk. What it was, Mr. Montvale, is that Jack and I, between us, have more ex-

perience pulling things from reluctant people than you are old.”

Montvale’s face showed no response to that.

“We started out to learn who he’d been running his mouth to,” Delchamps

went on, “and what he’d said. The first impression we got was that he had been

listening, not running his mouth, and that was the impression we had when

we finished. Right, Jack?”

“That’s it,” Doherty agreed. “He’s one hell of a young man, Mr. Ambas-


“Who talks too much,” Montvale said, “and has come close to compro-

mising your operation.”

“Listen to what I’m saying, for Christ’s sake!” Delchamps said.

“Just who do you think you’re talking to?” Montvale demanded.

“Your name, I understand, is Montvale. Do you know who you’re talk-

ing to?”

“I’ll wager you’re about to tell me,” Montvale said, icily. “Something more,

I mean, than that you’re a midlevel officer of the CIA.”

“I wondered how long it would take you to get around to that,” Delchamps

said. “Christ, you’re all alike.”

“Who’s all alike?” Montvale challenged.

“What the good guys in the clandestine service call the ‘Washington ass-

holes,’ ” Delchamps said, matter-of-factly.

“I will not be talked to like that,” Montvale flared. “ ‘Washington asshole’

or not, I’m the director of National Intelligence.”

Delchamps smiled. “You won’t be DNI long if this Presidential Finding

blows up in your face. The President will feed you to Senator Johns. The term

for that is ‘sacrificial lamb.’ You, Montvale, not Charley. Charley is not fat

enough to be fed as a sacrificial lamb to the Senate committee on intelligence.

They like large, well-known sacrificial lambs for the headlines and sound bites

with their names.”

They locked eyes for a moment, then Delchamps went on, calmly, “As I was

saying, it is my professional assessment, and that of Inspector Doherty, that

1 0 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Lieutenant Lorimer did not, at any time, share with anyone anything that he

suspected might be classified.

“What he did, as I said before, Mr. Montvale, was listen. And, with a skill

belying his youth and experience, put together a rather complete picture of what

Colonel Castillo has done in compliance with the Presidential Finding.

“And then he made a mistake, which, considering his youth and inexperi-

ence, is perfectly understandable. He’s naïve, in other words. He believed that

there had to be someone in the system somewhere who would really care about

his pal Timmons and do the right thing.”

“The right thing?” Montvale repeated, drily.

“Do something but wring their hands.”

“Such as?”

Delchamps ignored the question.

Instead, he said, “Let me paint the picture for you, Mr. Montvale. The

Paraguayan authorities notified our ambassador that an embassy vehicle had

been found parked against the fence surrounding Silvio Pettirossi International

Airport, directly across the field from the terminal building.

“In the backseat of the SUV, on the floor, was the body of one Franco

Julio César, thirty-nine years old, a Paraguayan national, employed as a chauf-

feur by the U.S. embassy. El Señor César was dead of asphyxiation, caused by

a metallic garrote having been placed around his neck by party or parties


“This guy had been garroted?” Castillo interrupted. “A metal garrote?”

“Yeah, Ace, that’s what the Paraguayan cops reported,” Delchamps said.

“Is that of some significance?” Montvale asked.

Delchamps ignored him again.

“A check of embassy records revealed that Señor César had been dispatched

to drive Special Agent Byron J. Timmons, Jr., of the DEA to the airport. Noth-

ing was known of Agent Timmons at that time.

“Late the next morning, however, a motorcycle messenger delivered an en-

velope to the embassy, which contained a color photograph of Special Agent

Timmons. It showed him sitting in a chair, holding a copy of that day’s Ultima

Hora, one of the local newspapers. There were four men, their faces concealed

by balaclava masks, standing with Special Agent Timmons. One of them held

the tag end of a metallic garrote which was around Timmons’s neck—one yank

on that, and he’d wind up like el Señor César.”

“Sonofabitch!” Castillo muttered.

“There was no message of any kind,” Delchamps went on. “At this point,

the senior DEA agent in charge summoned Lieutenant Lorimer to his office.


1 0 9

When Lorimer got there he found the consul general, who Lorimer suspected

was in fact the CIA station chief, and the legal attaché.

“They asked Lieutenant Lorimer, who was known to be Timmons’s friend

and who occupied an apartment immediately next to Timmons’s, if he had any

idea who might have kidnapped Special Agent Timmons.

“To which Lorimer replied, ‘Gypsies? You know—blasphemy omitted—well

who kidnapped him,’ or words to that effect, and then asked, ‘So what are we

going to do about getting him back?’

“To which the CIA station chief replied, ‘The matter is, of course, being

handled by the Paraguayan Capital Police Force, which has promised to notify

us promptly of any developments, and there is every reason to believe that

Timmons will be ultimately freed.’ Or words to that effect.

“To which Lieutenant Lorimer replied, ‘As a—blasphemy deleted—junkie

you mean, providing we don’t do our—blasphemy deleted—job.’ At which

point, after being admonished to get his emotions under control and ordered

not to discuss the kidnapping with anyone, Lorimer was dismissed. And so he

went looking for Colonel Costello, in the belief that this Costello was not your

typical candy-ass.”

“Ed, what’s that about ‘as a junkie’?” Castillo asked.

“Well, Ace, according to Lorimer—and Doherty agrees with me that

Lorimer probably isn’t making this up—the way things work down there—

there have been four other kidnappings Lorimer says he knows about—what

the bad guys do is snatch a DEA guy—or an FBI guy or a DIA guy—then let

the embassy know he’s alive. If shortly thereafter some heavy movement of

cocaine goes off all right, they turn him loose. Payment for everybody looking

the other way.”

“But what’s with the ‘junkie’?” Castillo pursued.

“I’m getting to that. To show their contempt for gringos generally, and to

keep their prisoner captive and quiet, by the time they turn him loose, his arm

is riddled with needle tracks. He’s lucky to have a vein that’s not collapsed.

They’ve turned him into a coke—sometimes a crack—junkie.”

Castillo shook his head in amazement.

“And if their movement of drugs is interdicted?” he asked softly.

“According to Lorimer, there have been four kidnappings of DEA agents in

Paraguay since he’s been there—five, counting Timmons. Three have been

turned loose, full of drugs. One was found dead of an overdose, shortly after

about five hundred kilos—more than half a ton—of refined coke was grabbed

in Argentina on a fruit boat floating down the Paraguay River.”

“Not garroted?” Castillo asked.

1 1 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Delchamps shook his head.

“Full of cocaine,” he said.

“What happens to the ones who are turned loose?”

“They are quietly given the best medical attention available for drug ad-

diction,” Delchamps said, “ ‘in anticipation of their return to full duty.’ ” He

paused. “Want to guess how often that works?”

“Probably not very often,” Ambassador Montvale said.

“And that doesn’t bother you?” Castillo snapped.

“Of course it bothers me.”

“But we have to look at the big picture, right?” Delchamps said, sarcasti-

cally. “DEA agents know their duties are going to place them in danger?”

Montvale nodded.

He said, “How likely do you think it is that this DEA agent—”

“His name is Timmons,” Delchamps said.

“Very well,” Montvale replied. “How likely do you think it is that Special

Agent Timmons—and every other DEA agent, DIA agent—Lieutenant Lorimer,

for example—and CIA officer in the embassy in Asunción volunteered for the


Delchamps looked at him for a moment, then said, “And that means

Lorimer is an unimportant little lieutenant, and Timmons is an unimportant

little DEA agent, right?”

“That was an unfortunate choice of words,” Montvale said, “but isn’t ‘im-

portant’ a relative term? Which would you say is more important, Mr.

Delchamps: preserving the confidentiality of the Presidential Finding, the com-

promise of which would embarrass the President and just about destroy the

fruits of the investigation you and Inspector Doherty and the others are about

to complete, or sending an unimportant little lieutenant to a weather station

in the Aleutian Islands for a year or two to make sure he keeps his mouth shut?”

Delchamps didn’t reply.

Montvale went on: “Or which would be less wise: to send Colonel Castillo

and his merry band to Paraguay to take on a drug cartel, which could carry with

it, obviously, the very real risk of compromising the Finding, and, in addition,

render the OOA impotent, or letting the people for whom Special Agent Tim-

mons works in Paraguay deal with the matter?”

“No one is suggesting that Charley’s guys go rescue Timmons,” Delchamps

said. “We all know that wouldn’t work.”

“I’m glad you realize that,” Montvale said.

“Lorimer is not going to be sent to the Aleutian Islands,” Castillo said, “or

anything like that.”


1 1 1

Both Montvale and Delchamps looked at him, surprised that he had gone

off on a tangent.

“What are you going to do with him, Ace?” Delchamps asked after a


“The first thing that comes to mind is to send him to Bragg. Let him be an

instructor or something.”

“That’ll work?” Delchamps asked.

“I think so.”

“I don’t think that’s a satisfactory solution,” Montvale said. “How can you

guarantee he won’t do something irrational at Fort Bragg?”

“I can’t. But since the decision about how to deal with him is mine to make,

that’s where he’s going. He may in fact be an unimportant little lieutenant in

your big picture, but in mine he’s a dedicated soldier who did exactly what I

would have done in the circumstances.”

“You told me something like that before,” Montvale said. “You remember

my response?”

Castillo nodded. “Something to the effect that his having done what I

would have done made you uncomfortable. The implication was that I’m also

a loose cannon.”

“There is that matter of the Black Hawk helicopter you ‘borrowed’

in Afghanistan,” Montvale said. “That might make some people think

that way.”

“Yeah, I’d agree with that,” Delchamps said. “But on the other hand, the

bottom line is the President doesn’t think he is.”

Montvale glared at him.

Delchamps went on: “I hate to be a party pooper, Mr. Montvale, but un-

less you want to kick the can around some more, it’s now about one in the

morning, and an old man like me needs his rest.”

“Yes, and I would agree that we’re through here,” Montvale said. “Eight

o’clock in the apartment, Colonel Castillo. Based on what you and these

gentlemen have told me, I don’t think we need concern the President that

the Southern Cone operations may have been compromised, do you?”

“I don’t think it has, or will be, Mr. Ambassador,” Castillo said.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Montvale said. “Thank you for your


He nodded at all of them and walked out of the room.

1 1 2


. E . B . G R I F F I N


The Breakfast Room

The Presidential Apartments

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.

0755 2 September 2005

The only person in the breakfast room when the Secret Service agent opened

the door for Ambassador Montvale and Lieutenant Colonel Castillo was Sec-

retary of State Natalie Cohen, a small, slight, pale-skinned woman who wore

her black hair in a pageboy cut.

She was standing by the window, holding a cup of coffee, as she watched

the Presidential helicopter flutter down to the lawn. When she saw Mont-

vale and Castillo, she smiled, set her coffee cup on a small table, and walked

to them.

“I was hoping I’d have a moment alone with you, Charles,” she said, “so that

I could ask you where our wandering boy was.”

“Natalie,” Montvale said, as the secretary of State walked to Castillo and

kissed his cheek.

“Welcome home, Wandering Boy,” she said. “When did you get back?”

“Last night, Madam Secretary,” Castillo said.

“We have a little problem, Charley,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Katrina has put fifteen feet of water over Ambassador Lorimer’s home in

New Orleans,” she said. “He and his wife are at the Masterson plantation—

which is apparently just outside the area of mass destruction along the Missis-

sippi Gulf Coast—and he called me to ask if I could give him the precise

address of his late son’s plantation—estancia in Uruguay, at which he intends

to live until he can move back into his house in New Orleans.”

“Jesus!” Castillo said.

“When I told him I didn’t have the address, he said that Mr. Masterson had

told him that you know where it is, and asked how he could get in touch

with you.”

“At the risk of repeating myself, Madame Secretary,” Castillo said, “Jesus!”

“May I reasonably infer from your reaction that there’s a problem with this?”

“Yes, ma’am, there’s a problem with that,” Castillo said. “Why can’t he just

stay with the Mastersons?”


1 1 3

“That question occurred to me, too, but of course, I couldn’t ask it. What’s

the nature of the problem?”

“What about the apartment in Paris?” Castillo said. “He inherited that, too.”

“I suggested to the ambassador that he would probably be more comfort-

able in an apartment in Paris than on a ranch—an estancia—in Uruguay. His

response to that suggested he’s about as much a Francophobe as you are,

Charley. He wants to go to the estancia and there’s not much we can do to stop

him. Except, of course, you talking him out of going down there. I asked you

what the problem is?”

Castillo looked at Montvale, then raised his hands in a gesture of help-


“Things happened down there, Natalie,” Montvale said, “which suggested

the possibility the Presidential Finding might be at risk of compromise. Castillo

thinks, operative word thinks, that his shutting down his operation there has

removed the threat. But Lorimer going down there would pose problems.”

“Why, Charley?” the secretary asked simply. “More important, what things

happened down there?”

“A too-clever young DIA officer assigned to our embassy in Asunción has

pretty well figured out what’s taken place down there,” Montvale answered

for him.

“Oh, God!”

“Castillo has brought this young officer back with him, and intends to send

him to Fort Bragg in what I think is the rather wishful belief that there he will

keep what he has learned to himself.”

“I’ve also taken steps to shut mouths in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and

Asunción,” Castillo said. “And I think the threat of compromise is pretty well re-


“Again the operative word is thinks,” Montvale said. “Although I don’t be-

lieve we should worry the President with the situation at this time.”

“But Ambassador Lorimer going down there might change that?” she

replied, and then, before anyone could answer, she asked, “Why, Charley?”

“There is a very clever Uruguayan cop, Chief Inspector José Ordóñez, who

has figured out just about everything that happened down there,” Castillo said.

“I talked with him in Punta del Este, right after they found the bodies of

Howard Kennedy and Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Zhdankov of the FSB beaten

to death in the Conrade—a plush hotel and casino. He said he believed

Kennedy was a drug dealer, and Zhdankov the Czech businessman that his pass-

port said he was. And that the bodies at Shangri-La, Lorimer’s estancia, in-

cluding Lorimer’s, were also the result of a drug deal gone wrong, and that he

1 1 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

doubted if anyone would ever be arrested. And then he suggested that I leave

Uruguay as quickly as possible and not return until, quote, the bad memories

had time to fade, unquote. Which, of course, I did.”

“And Ambassador Lorimer going down there would possibly pull the scab

off this?” she asked.

Castillo nodded.

“There’s more, Natalie,” Montvale said. “Senator Johns came to see me, and

implied that he thinks his brother-in-law the ambassador was kept in the dark

about a Special Forces team operating in Uruguay.”

“God!” she said. “How bad is that?”

“At the moment, under control. But if Lorimer goes down there . . .”

“If Lorimer goes down where?” the President of the United States asked as

he walked into the breakfast room heading for the coffee service.

“Good morning, Mr. President,” the secretary of State, the director of Na-

tional Intelligence, and Lieutenant Colonel Castillo said almost in unison.

“Good morning,” the President said as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

Then he turned. “I’m especially glad to see you, Charley. You have this won-

derful ability to show up at the exact moment I need you. When did you

get back?”

“Last night, Mr. President.”

“ ‘If Lorimer goes down there’ what?” the President asked.

Natalie Cohen said, “Ambassador Lorimer’s home in New Orleans is under

the water, Mr.—”

“His and several hundred thousand other people’s,” the President inter-

rupted. “My God, what a disaster!”

“—and he called me and asked for directions to his son’s ranch in Uruguay

in which, or at which, he intends to live until he can get back in his home.”

“And that poses problems?”

“It may, sir,” Montvale said.

“How bad problems?” the President asked.

“Not catastrophic, Mr. President,” Montvale said, “but potentially dan-


“I can’t imagine why the hell . . . yeah, now that I think about it, I can imag-

ine why he’d want to go down there. Far from the mess in New Orleans, and

it’s cheap—right, Charley? —to live down there.”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“If it’s not going to cause catastrophic problems for us, I don’t think it’s any

of our business what he does,” the President said. “We have other problems to

deal with. Aside from Katrina, I mean.”

“Sir?” Natalie Cohen asked.


1 1 5

The President sipped his coffee, then said, “Two days ago, the mayor of

Chicago called me. Now, I know you two are above sordid politics, but I’ll bet

Charley can guess how important Cook County is to me. Right, Charley?”

“I think I have an idea, Mr. President,” Castillo said.

“And knowing that, you’ll all understand why I responded in the affirma-

tive when the mayor asked me to do him a personal favor.”

“Yes, sir,” the three said, chuckling almost in unison.

“And when I heard what favor he was asking, I was glad that I had replied

in the affirmative, because it pissed me off, too. If I’d known about this, I would

have taken action myself.”

“Known about what, Mr. President?” Montvale said.

“You’re the director of National Intelligence, Charles,” the President said,

“so I am presuming you (a) know what’s going on in Paraguay and (b) have a

good reason for not telling me about it.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mr. President,” Mont-

vale said.

“You have any idea what I’m talking about, Natalie?”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. President.”

“Well, then, let me tell you,” the President said. “What the drug cartel

down there has been doing is kidnapping our agents and then either turning

them into junkies or giving them fatal overdoses of what we euphemistically call

‘controlled substances.’ Are you learning this for the first time, Charles?”

“No, sir. Of course, I’m aware of the situation—”


“I’ve heard of the abductions, Mr. President, but not about the . . . uh . . .

business of making the agents drug addicts.”

“Charley, are you learning this for the first time now?”

“No, sir.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” the President said. “Sometime when we

have time, Charles, we can have a long philosophical discussion of what the

DNI should, or should not, pass on to the commander-in-chief, but right now

all we have time for is dealing with the problem.

“I have come by my intelligence regarding this situation from His Honor

the Mayor. It seems that his father, who was, you recall, His Honor the Mayor

for a very long time, had a lifelong pal, one Francis “Big Frank” Timmons, who

the current mayor told me his father said was one of the only two really hon-

est cops in Chicago.

“The mayor told me that Big Frank Timmons called him and asked him

for a favor. The mayor, who was bounced on Big Frank’s knees as an infant and

calls him ‘Uncle Frank,’ said ‘Name it,’ or something like that.

1 1 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Big Frank told the mayor that his son Byron—who is a captain on the

Chicago Police Force—just had a visit from an official of the Drug Enforcement

Administration, who told him that his son, Special Agent Byron J. Timmons,

Jr., of the DEA, was missing from his assignment at the U.S. embassy in . . .

whatever the hell the capital city is . . . in Paraguay . . .”

“Asunción,” Castillo furnished without thinking.

The President’s face showed that he was not very grateful for the infor-


“. . . and that the possibility he had been kidnapped had to be faced, al-

though they had no proof of that.”

Castillo exhaled audibly.

“What’s with the deep breathing, Charley?” the President asked.

“Pardon me, Mr. President.”

“What does it mean, Colonel?” the President demanded coldly.

“Sir, I don’t know if the DEA man in Chicago knew this, but the embassy

in Asunción knew the day after Timmons disappeared that he had been kid-

napped. They sent a photograph of him, surrounded by men in balaclava masks,

and with a garrote around his neck.”

“How long have you known about this?” the President asked.

“That Timmons had been kidnapped, about”—he paused and did the

arithmetic—“thirty-six hours, Mr. President. I learned about the photograph

being sent to the embassy about midnight last night, sir.”

“And you, Charles?” the President asked.

“I learned of this incident for the first time last night, Mr. President, when

Colonel Castillo did.”

“And you, Natalie?”

“I’m hearing about this man . . . Special Agent Timmons . . . for the first

time now, Mr. President. I’m sure the embassy made a report. I can simply pre-

sume it never made it to my desk.”

“I guess not,” the President said. “Well, it seems that Special Agent Tim-

mons wrote his grandfather—who bounced the mayor on his knee, you will

recall—about what was happening down there. He said there have been four

such kidnappings. His makes five. So neither he nor Captain Timmons was very

much impressed with what the DEA representative had told them. The word

they used to describe it, forgive me, Madam Secretary, was ‘bullshit.’ At that

point, Big Frank Timmons called the mayor.”

“Mr. President,” Montvale said, “just as soon as you’re finished with us, I’ll

get on the telephone to our ambassador in Paraguay.”

“No, you won’t, Charles,” the President said.



1 1 7

“What I told the mayor was that I have an in-house expert for dealing with

matters like this, and just as soon as I could lay my hands on him, I was going

to tell him that his first priority was to get Special Agent Timmons back from

these bastards.”

“Sir, you don’t mean Charley?” the secretary of State asked.

“Natalie, who else could I possibly mean?” the President said. But it clearly

was more a statement than a question.

“Mr. President,” she said, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea.”

“Your objection noted,” the President said.

“Mr. President, with all possible respect,” Castillo said, “I don’t know any-

thing about dealing with something like this.”

“How much did you know about finding a stolen airliner, Colonel? Or a

missing UN official?”

“Sir, with respect, I know nothing about the drug trade. . . .”

“I thought the way this works is the superior officer gives an order and the

subordinate officer says, ‘yes, sir,’ and then does his goddamnedest to carry it

out. Am I wrong?”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said.

“I’m wrong?”

“No, sir. I meant to say—”

“I know what you meant to say, Charley,” the President said, and smiled.

“And to assist you in carrying out your orders, the DNI and Secretary Cohen

will provide you with whatever you think may be useful. As will the secretary

of Defense and the attorney general. I will inform them of this just as soon as

I can get to Andrews, where both are waiting for me. We’re going to have a look

at what Katrina has done.” He paused. “Any questions?”

There was a chorus of “No, sir.”

The President had another thought: “I’m going to call the mayor from Air

Force One and tell him that I am sending you up there to talk to him and Big

Frank and Captain Timmons and anyone else who needs reassurance that I’m

doing everything in my power to right this wrong.”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said.

“Wear your uniform,” the President said. “I think they’ll find that reassur-

ing. My wife says you look like a recruiting poster in your uniform.”

He gave his hand to Castillo, then walked out of the breakfast room with

only a nod of his head to Montvale and Cohen.

“My God!” Natalie Cohen said when the door had closed after him.

Montvale shook his head, then walked to the window. Cohen followed him

after a moment, and then Castillo did.

No one said a word until after the President had walked quickly across the

1 1 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N

lawn to the Sikorsky VH-3D and gotten aboard, and the helicopter had gone


“Colonel,” Montvale said, breaking the silence, “by the time you return

from Chicago, the experts on the drug trade will be waiting for you in your of-

fice. And I suggest you make the flight in my Gulfstream. You have just flown

yours eight thousand miles. It—and you—must be tired.”

“Thank you.”

“Unnecessary,” Montvale said. “While it might be a wonderful solution to

this problem, if you were to crash and burn flying your own airplane, I fear the

President would suspect I had something to do with it.”

“I can’t believe you said that, Charles,” Natalie Cohen said, appearing

genuinely shocked. She touched Castillo’s arm. “Maybe you can reason with

Ambassador Lorimer. I really don’t think he should be going to Uruguay, es-

pecially now.”

Castillo nodded.



The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C.

0845 2 September 2005

“Madame Secretary, Mr. Director,” the uniformed Secret Service man at the door

to the north side drive apologized, “it’ll be just a moment for your vehicles.”

They had come down from the presidential apartment before the Secret Ser-

vice agent on duty there passed word to the uniformed Secret Service agent in

charge of the motor pool “downstairs” that they were coming.

“Not a problem,” Natalie Cohen said. “Thank you.”

Castillo had learned the cars would be brought to the door following pro-

tocol. The secretary of State was senior to the director of National Intelligence.

Her armored Cadillac limousine would arrive before Montvale’s black Yukon

XL Denali.

And since I am at the bottom of the protocol totem pole, mine will arrive last.


1 1 9

If at all.

The secretary of State put her hand on Castillo’s arm and led him outside,

out of hearing of the Secret Service uniformed officer and, of course, DNI

Montvale, who hurried to catch up.

“Charley,” she said, “I’m going to do my best to talk him out of this. But

I’m not sure I’ll be able to.”

Castillo nodded.

“Do I have to ask you to try hard not to make waves?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Let me know what I can do to help.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.”

Her limousine rolled up. A burly man—obviously an agent of the Bureau

of Diplomatic Security, which protects the secretary of State—got quickly out

of the front seat and glanced around carefully as he opened the rear for Cohen.

He saw Castillo and eyed him suspiciously.

Castillo winked at him, which obviously displeased him.

Oh, for Christ’s sake! What are the odds that somebody wanting to do her harm

is going to walk out of the White House with her and the director of National In-


Montvale’s Denali rolled up. Castillo saw his coming up the drive.

“I’ll call the Eighty-ninth,” Montvale said, “and tell them that you’ll be

using my Gulfstream.”

The 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base provided the White House

with its fleet of airplanes, including the two VC-25A Boeings that had the call

sign of Air Force One when flying the President.

“I thought you were kidding,” Castillo said.

“Not at all.”

“Thanks just the same. I think it would be smarter if I used my own.”

“My God, aren’t you tired?”

“Exhausted. But not a problem. I’ll just set the autopilot and the alarm on

my wristwatch. Then I can sleep all the way to Chicago.”

It took a moment for Montvale to realize his chain was being pulled. When

that showed on his face, Castillo said, “I’d rather not have people asking, ‘Who’s

the guy in the presidential G-IV?’ But thanks anyway.”

“My God, Castillo!” Montvale said, and got in the rear seat of his vehicle.

His Yukon rolled off, Castillo’s rolled up, and Castillo got in the backseat.

“Where to, sir?” the driver asked.

“Why don’t you move this thing so it’s not blocking the door while I find

out?” Castillo said, and reached for the telephone.

“White House.”

1 2 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“If you can guess who this is, can you ring my office?”

“Oh, you heard about the voice recognition, did you, Colonel?”

“God, ain’t we clever?”

There was a chuckle, then Agnes’s voice.

“Colonel Castillo’s line.”

“Good morning,” Castillo said.

“How’d it go with the President?”

“Disastrously. Guess who’s supposed to get that DEA agent back from the

bad guys?”

“Oh, no!”

“Oh, yes. Is Tom there?”

“He’s at your house. Or at the Alexandria Police Department on the way

to your house. He wanted to keep them from getting curious about all the sud-

den activity at the house.”

“Can you get him on the horn and ask him to meet me at the house?”


“Thank you. I’ll bring you up to speed later, Agnes.”

“That would probably be a very good idea, boss.”

The connection was broken.

“Home, James,” Castillo regally ordered the driver, who smiled and shook

his head as he put the Yukon into motion.

“We have a Secret Service radio in here, Colonel,” he said. “I can probably

get McGuire for you, if you want.”

“Thank you, but no. McGuire’s likely to cause me trouble, but he’s too smart

to argue with Agnes.”

“Are you through, Colonel?” the White House operator asked.

“Can you get my house, please?”

A moment later, a male voice announced, “Colonel Castillo’s line.”

There was something about the less than vibrant timbre of the voice that

gave Castillo pause. And then he understood.

Jesus, it didn’t take them long to put Lester to work, did it?

“Colonel Castillo, Lester.”

“Yes, sir, I know. There’s a voice recognition system on this. Just as soon as

you said, ‘Colonel Castillo,’ your name popped up.”

“What do you think it would have done if I had said, ‘Clint Eastwood’?”

“Sir, as efficient as this system seems to be, I think it would have reported,

‘Colonel Castillo.’ ”

“Yeah, it probably would have. Is Major Miller around there?”

“Yes, sir. One moment, sir. I’ll get him for you, sir.”


1 2 1

A few seconds later, Miller came on the connection.

“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir?”

“Dick, two things. First, keep everybody there.”

“Too late. Mrs. Doherty drove off with him right after you left.”


“He lives near here. I have a number. Want me to get him back?”

“No. If I need him, we can call. Anybody else gone?”

“No, but the troops are getting a little restless.”

“Well, keep everybody there. I’m on my way.”

“Done. And?”


“You said two things.”

“Oh, yeah. See if Lorimer has a uniform. If he does, put him in it. And I’m

presuming you brought mine from the hotel?”

“Freshly run one last time through their very expensive dry-cleaning oper-

ation. If I were to infer that the trumpets have sounded and that you and Peg-

leg are about to rush to the sound of musketry, would I be close?”

“A lot worse than that. I’ll explain when I get there.”

As the Yukon turned onto West Boulevard Drive, a red light-emitting diode

(LED) on the telephone began to flash. Castillo looked at it, wondered what it

was, and had just decided it meant he’d better pick up the phone when the

driver said, “I think you’d better pick up, Colonel. That’s the White House


Oh, boy, another friendly offer of help from Montvale!


“I just talked to that man in Chicago,” the President of the United States

said. “Timmons’s family will be expecting you.”

“Mr. President, I’m on my way to pack my bag.”

“Reassure the family, Charley, that’s the important thing. Make them un-

derstand the situation is under control. Get the mayor off my back.”

In other words, lie through my teeth.

The situation is anything but under control.

“I’ll do my best, sir.”

“I’ve got a number for you to call. Got a pencil?”

“Just a moment, please, sir.”

He furiously patted his pockets until he felt a ballpoint pen, dug it out, and

knocked the cap off.

1 2 2


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“Ready, sir.”

Charley wrote the number the President gave him on the heel of his

left hand.

“Got it, sir.”

The President made him read it back.

“Right,” the President said. “Let me know how it goes, Charley.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good man!”

The line went dead.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a piece of paper, do you?” Charley asked the


“There’s a clipboard with a pad and a couple of ballpoints on a chain on

the back of the other seat, Colonel.”

Castillo looked. There was.

“Shit,” he muttered.

He took the clipboard, wrote the number on the pad, tore the sheet off, and

put it in his pocket. He then tried to erase the number from the heel of his hand

with his handkerchief. He couldn’t even smear it.

“Shit,” he said again.


7200 West Boulevard Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

1005 2 September 2005

“You’re dangerous, Charley,” Colonel Jake Torine said after Castillo had related

what had happened in the presidential apartment. “If I could figure out how,

I’d get and stay as far away from you as possible.”

Castillo raised an eyebrow. “It’s damn sure not intentional. And whatever

you do, don’t call me Magnet Ass.”

“Why not?”

“That one’s been taken a long time, by one of you Air Force types. Fred Platt

flew forward air controller covert ops over Laos as a Raven. He earned the

name Magnet Ass drawing fire in supposedly unarmed Cessnas—0-1 Bird

Dogs—and damn near anything else with wings.”

“Platt? Didn’t we just call him for—?”

“Yeah,” Castillo interrupted before he could say anything more, “yeah,

we did.”


1 2 3

“I ask this because I don’t know anything about the drug trade,” Edgar

Delchamps said, “and also because I am much too old to play John Wayne, but

wouldn’t I be of more use here working on the oil-for-food maggots?”

“No question about it,” Castillo said. “It never entered my mind to bring

you or Doherty in on this.”

“Next question,” Delchamps said. “Do I get to live here?”

“For as long as you want. The only thing I’d like you to do is keep an eye

on Eric Kocian and Sándor.”

Delchamps gave him a thumbs-up gesture.

“A good spook always takes good care of his sources. You might want to

write that down, Ace.” He stood up and said, “It’s been fun, fellas. We’ll have

to do it again sometime. Let’s keep in touch.”

And then he walked out of the living room.

“What about me, Karl?” Alfredo Munz asked.

“I brought you along so you could be with your family and take them

home,” Castillo said. “But having heard all this, how would you feel about com-

ing to work for us? We could really use you.”

Munz didn’t reply, and seemed uneasy.

“What is it, Alfredo?”

“I need a job,” Munz said. “As much as I would like to do whatever I can

to help you, I just can’t support my family on my SIDE pension.”

“I told you a long time ago we’d take care of you,” Castillo said. “So that’s

not a problem. You’ve been on the payroll of the Lorimer Charitable & Benev-

olent Trust as a senior consultant ever since we took that chopper ride to


“Why do I suspect you are lying, my friend?”

“Because I am,” Castillo said. “But the only reason you haven’t been on the

payroll is because I’m stupid. You may have noticed.”

“No,” Munz said, emotionally. “The one thing you are not is stupid.”

“Well, I have noticed, Colonel,” Miller said. “I’ve known him a long time.

And with that in mind, I brought the question up to Mrs. Forbison—you met

her last night?”

Munz nodded.

“And Agnes decided that since you are, or at least were, a colonel, we should

bring you on board as a Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Trust LB-15, which

is the equivalent of a GS-15 in the Federal Service. And, according to Army Reg-

ulation 210-50, a GS-15 is regarded as the equivalent of a colonel. The pay is

$89,625 a year to start. Would that be satisfactory to you?”

“You are fooling with me, right?”

1 2 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Not at all.”

“That much? My God, that’s two hundred and seventy thousand


Castillo thought, surprised: Miller isn’t just making all that up. He and

Agnes have given this thought, done the research, and come up with the answer.

“The Internal Revenue Service will take their cut, of course,” Miller said.

“But that’s the best we can do.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Munz said.

“ ‘Yes’ would work,” Castillo said.

“If I retire, Charley,” Torine said, “will you hire me?”

“If you’re serious, Jake, sure,” Castillo said.

“Let me give that some thought,” Torine said seriously.

“I myself go on the payroll the first of October,” Miller said, “as an LB-12,

at $64,478 per annum.”

Oh, God, that means they’re physically retiring him. Involuntarily.

“Sorry you took a hit. So long, and don’t let the doorknob hit you on the ass on

your way out.”

“What’s that ‘LB’ business?” Castillo asked.

“Lorimer Bureaucrat,” Miller said. “An LB-12 is equivalent to a major and

a GS-12.” He looked at Castillo. “After I gnashed my teeth in agony while

rolling around on the floor at Walter Reed begging for compassion, the Med-

ical Review Board gave me a seventy-percent disability pension. Permanent.”

“You all right with that?” Castillo asked softly.

“I’d rather have my knee back,” Miller said. “But with my pension and my

salary as an LB-12, I’ll be taking home more than you do. Yeah, I’m all right

with it. And somebody has to cover your back, Colonel, sir.”

“I hate to tell you this, but I already have a fine young Marine NCO cov-

ering my back.”

“Don’t laugh, Charley,” Torine said, chuckling.

“I’m not laughing at all; I owe him,” Castillo said. He paused, then said,

“Well, before we went off on this tangent, Jake was saying something about me

being dangerous.”

“And I wasn’t joking, either. Only you could get us into something like this.

You are dangerous.”

“I thank you for that heartfelt vote of confidence,” Castillo replied. “And

moving right along, what shape is the airplane in?”

“If you had read the log, First Officer, you would know that we’re pretty

close to a hundred-hour.”



1 2 5

“Not a major problem,” Torine said. “We can get it done when we’re in


“ ‘When we’re in Vegas’?” Castillo parroted, incredulously. “You want to tell

me about Vegas?”

“I guess I didn’t get around to mentioning that,” Miller said.

Castillo looked at him.

Miller explained: “Aloysius is going to replace the avionics in the G-Three.

The communications and global positioning portions thereof. Plus, of course,

a secure phone and data link.”

“You told him about the Gulfstream?”

“Hey, he’s one of us.”

He’s right. He just told Casey we have the Gulfstream, not how we use it.

And Casey really is one of us, and knows we’re not using it to fly to the Bahamas

for a little time on the beach.

“Point taken,” Castillo said.

“Signature Flight Support’s got an operation at McCarran,” Torine said. “I

called them—in Baltimore—this morning, and got them to agree to tell the

people in Vegas to do the hundred-hour in the AFC hangar. Somehow I sus-

pected we were going to need the airplane sooner than anyone thought.

Wrong move?”

“No. Just something else that comes as a surprise,” Castillo said. “Okay, how

about this? We go to Chicago and ‘assure the family,’ and then we go to Mid-

land and either leave Alfredo there or—why not?—pick up Munz’s wife and

daughters and take everybody to Las Vegas. We get the avionics installed and

the hundred-hour done. How long is that service going to take?”

“Twenty-four hours, maybe forty-eight. It depends on (a) what they turn

up in the hundred-hour and (b) how long it takes Casey’s people to install the


“Not long, I would think,” Miller said, “as I suspect we can count on Aloy-

sius either putting it in himself or standing over whoever else does.”

“If it takes more than forty-eight hours, I’ll just go to New Orleans com-

mercial to try to talk the ambassador out of going to Shangri-La.”

“Where the hell have you been, Charley?” Torine asked. “Louis Armstrong

is closed to all but emergency traffic—they’re picking people off the roofs of

their houses with choppers, using Louis Armstrong as the base. And Lakefront

is under fifteen feet of water.”

“Keesler?” Castillo asked.

“Wiped out.”

“Okay. Moving right along, if they can’t do the airplane in forty-eight hours,

1 2 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

I’ll go to Atlanta commercial and then Fort Rucker and borrow something

with revolving wings and fly that to Masterson’s plantation.”

“That may not work, either,” Miller said.

“Hey, I’m drunk with the power I’ve been given. You were awake, weren’t

you, when I said the President said he was going to tell the secretary of Defense

to give me whatever I think I need.”

“That presupposes Rucker has a chopper to loan you,” Miller said. “I

suspect that their birds are among those picking people off rooftops in New


“Then I’ll rent one in Atlanta.”

“Same reply,” Miller said.

“I think they’d loan you a helicopter at Rucker, Charley,” Torine said, “even

if they had to bring it back from picking people off roofs in New Orleans.” He

paused. “You sure you want to do that?”

“No, of course I don’t. Okay. So scaling down my grandiose ambitions to

conform with reality, I’ll fly to Atlanta, take a taxi to Fulton County, and rent

a twin Cessna or something. That’s probably a better solution anyway.”

“It probably is,” Torine agreed. “I just had another unpleasant thought.

Even if Masterson’s airstrip is not under water and long enough for us to

get the Gulfstream in there, it’s probably being used by a lot of other air-


“Yeah,” Castillo agreed. “Okay. Correct me where I’m wrong. The priority

is to get to Chicago and, quote, assure the mayor, unquote. I suppose I could

do that commercial. But we are going to need the Gulfstream, and with the

hundred-hour out of the way.”

“And, better yet, with the new avionics,” Miller said.

“Right. We have enough time left to go to Chicago, then, with a stop in

Midland, to Las Vegas, right?”

“Probably with a couple of hours left over,” Torine said.

“So that’s what we’ll do. And wing it from there, so to speak,” Castillo said.

“Where’s Lorimer? Does he have a uniform?”

“Upstairs and yes,” Miller said.

“Okay. Everybody but Jake and Miller go play with the dogs or something

while we deal with Lieutenant Lorimer,” Castillo said.

Miller started to get up.

“Keep your seat, Dick,” Special Agent David W. Yung said. “I’ll get him.”

“This is where I’m supposed to say, ‘I’m perfectly able to climb a flight of

stairs,’ ” Miller said. “But what I am going to say is ‘You will be rewarded in

heaven, David, for your charity to this poor cripple.’ ”


1 2 7

Tom McGuire came into the living room first.

“Agnes told me,” he said. “Jesus!”

“I only took the job because I knew how you hungered to see the natural

beauty and other wonders of Paraguay,” Castillo said. “You okay to leave right

away for three, four days?”

McGuire nodded and asked, “Where we going? Paraguay?”

“First to Chicago, then to Las Vegas. It’s kind of iffy after Vegas.”

“I am always ready to go to Las Vegas on a moment’s notice, but what’s

going on in Chicago?”

Castillo told him of the President’s call.

“. . . And,” Castillo finished, “I think a distinguished Supervisory Secret Ser-

vice agent such as yourself can help reassure this guy’s family, who are all cops.”

McGuire nodded his understanding but said, “I think I should fess up right

away, Charley. I have been successfully avoiding the drug business since I joined

the service, and the only thing I know about it is what I read in the papers.”

“I think, then, that this is what they call the blind leading the blind,”

Castillo said.

The door opened and a uniformed First Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer, In-

telligence, U.S. Army, stepped in the room, came almost to attention, and


Castillo thought he looked like a Special Forces recruiting poster, and re-

membered what the President had said about the First Lady saying that

about him.

He’s even wearing jump boots, Castillo thought, which triggered a mental

image of a highly polished, laced-up Corcoran boot from the top of which ex-

tended a titanium pole topped by a fully articulated titanium knee.

“Good morning, Lorimer,” Castillo said. “Come on in and sit down. We

don’t do much standing at attention or saluting around here.”

“Good morning, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“Colonel Torine you know, and Major Miller. This is Supervisory Special

Agent Tom McGuire of the Secret Service.”

McGuire wordlessly offered Lorimer his hand.

“Before these witnesses, Lorimer,” Castillo said formally, “I am going to tell

you—again—that anything you see, hear, or surmise here, or at any place at any

time about what we’re doing or have done, or plan to do, is classified Top Se-

cret Presidential. Is that clear in your mind?”

“Yes, sir.”

1 2 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Any questions about that?”

“No, sir.”

“The President of the United States has tasked the Office of Organizational

Analysis, under the authority of an existing Presidential Finding, with freeing

Special Agent Timmons from his kidnappers,” Castillo said.

“Jesus H. Christ!” Lorimer exclaimed. “Wonderful! Colonel, I don’t know

how to thank you!”

Castillo looked at him coldly until Lorimer’s face showed that he understood

that his response had not been welcomed.

“If you have your emotions under control, Lieutenant, I will continue

with the admonition that any further emotional outbreaks will not be toler-


“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”

“Lorimer, to clear the air, have you ever been given an order that you were

sure you were not equipped to carry out?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And what did you do when you were given an order you knew you were

not equipped to carry out?”

“Sir, I told him I didn’t know how to do what he was ordering me to do.”

“And then?”

“And then I tried to do it.”

“Were you successful in carrying out the order?”

“No, sir. I wasn’t. But I tried.”

“That’s the situation here, Lorimer. We have been given an order that is

in our judgment beyond our ability to carry out. But we are going to try

very hard to obey that order. You have absolutely no reason, therefore, to thank

me. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So long as you remain useful—and, more important, cause me and

OOA no trouble of any kind—I am going to permit you to participate in this


“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“To say this is probationary would be an understatement. There will be no

second chances. Phrased another way, Lieutenant, you fuck up once and you’re

dead meat. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“We are going to Chicago just as soon as I can change into uniform. Our

mission, at the personal order of the President, is to assure Timmons’s family

that everything possible is being done to get him back. Since I don’t have a clue


1 2 9

about how to get him back, that’s probably going to be difficult. One thing we

can do, however, is produce you.”


“With a little bit of luck, they’ll know who you are, that you were Tim-

mons’s buddy.”

“Timmons’s family knows who I am, sir.”

“Then they’ll probably believe you when you tell them what happened

down there.”

“I think they will, sir.”

“On the other hand, they may suspect we’re blowing smoke. ‘What’s this

guy doing up here when he should be in Asunción looking for . . .’ ”

“Byron, sir,” Lorimer furnished. “His name is Byron Timmons, same as

his father.”

“In any event, while you are delivering the after-action report, you will look

at me every two seconds. If I shake my head slightly, or if you think I’m shak-

ing my head, you will stop in midsentence and change subjects. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Timmons’s family will certainly have questions. Before you answer any

question, you will look at me to see if I shake my head or nod. If I shake my

head, your answer to that question will be something intended to assure them.

It doesn’t have to be true. You understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you cannot carry out this instruction satisfactorily, Lorimer, I will con-

clude that you will not be of any value to this operation and we’ll drop you off

at Fort Bragg on our way back here. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you packed?”

“No, sir. I sort of thought I’d be staying here.”

“Go pack. You may well not be coming back here. When you’re packed, put

your bag in my Denali and wait there.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorimer said. He stood up and walked—with a just-noticeable

limp—out of the living room, closing the door after himself.

As soon as it had closed, Miller said, “I’d forgotten what a starchy prick you

can be, Charley.”

“My sentiments exactly,” Torine said. “What were you trying to do, Charley,

make that kid hate you? Couldn’t you have cut him some slack?”

“I was actually paying him a compliment, Jake,” Castillo said. “And thank

you for that vote of confidence.”


1 3 0


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“Pegleg is obviously as bright as they come; at least as smart as I am. Before

I called him in here, I gave a lot of thought to how I should treat someone

I admire, and who is probably as dangerous as you say I am. If that offended

you two . . .”

“Okay,” Torine said. “You’re right. He reminds me of a lot of fighter pilots

I’ve known.”

“I would agree with that, Jake, except I’m pretty sure Lorimer can read

and write.”

Torine gave Castillo the finger.

Castillo took a small sheet of notebook paper from his pocket.

“Call that number, please, Jake, and tell them when we’re going to be in

Chicago, and how we can get from which airport to where we’re going.”

“They used to have a nice little airport downtown, right beside the lake,”

Torine said. “Meigs Field. Supposed to be one of the busiest private aviation

fields in the world. But the mayor wanted a park there, so one night he sent in

bulldozers and they cut big Xs on the runways.”

“Really?” Miller asked.

“Yeah. There were a dozen, maybe more, light planes stranded there. They

were finally allowed to take off from the taxiways. And the mayor got his

park. He’s . . .”

“Formidable?” Miller suggested.

“In spades,” Torine said.


Atlantic Aviation Services Operations

Midway International Airport

Chicago, Illinois

1425 2 September 2005

“There’s a guy walking toward us, Tom,” Castillo said, as he tripped the stair-

door lever in the Gulfstream III.

“I saw him.”

“Looks like an Irish cop. You want to deal with him?”

McGuire gave Castillo the finger, then pushed himself off the couch on

which he’d ridden—slept—from Baltimore, and walked to the door.

The man, a stocky six-footer with a full head of red hair, came up the stair

as soon as it was in place.

“I’m Captain O’Day,” he announced, as if supremely confident that no one


1 3 1

could possibly mistake him for, say, an airline captain or anything but what he

was, a Chicago cop. “I’m looking for a Colonel Costello.”

Castillo came back into the cabin from the cockpit, and was putting on his

green beret.

“Well, you weren’t hard to find,” O’Day said. “God, you’ve got more medals

than Patton!”

Castillo shook his hand.

“It’s Castillo, Captain.”

“Sorry. You don’t look like a Castillo.”

“I’m in disguise. Say hello to another Texican, Tom McGuire of the Secret


“If you’re . . . whatever he said . . . McGuire, then I’m a . . .”

“Irish cop?” Castillo said, innocently.

“He’s a real wiseass, isn’t he?” O’Day asked, smiling.

“And he’s barely warmed up,” McGuire said.

“People are waiting for you. How many are going?”

“Five,” McGuire said.

“I knew that. That’s why I called for another car,” O’Day said.

He gestured for everyone to get off the Gulfstream.

There were two cars, both solid black and brand-new, and looking like any

other new Ford Crown Victoria except for little badges on the trunk reading

POLICE INTERCEPTOR and, just visible behind the grille, blue and red lights.

“You can ride in front with me, Colonel,” O’Day said. “I guess you’re


“Actually, Captain, the skinny guy’s a full colonel,” Castillo said. “But only

in the Air Force, so that doesn’t count.”

“Go to hell, Costello,” Torine said.

O’Day took a cellular telephone from his shirt pocket, pushed an autodial

key, then after a moment said, “On the way. There’s five of them. Maybe twenty

minutes.” He pressed the END key and put the phone back in his shirt pocket.

“How far is police headquarters?” Castillo asked, several minutes later.


“Isn’t that where we’re going?”

“No, it isn’t,” O’Day said, and changed the subject. “I’ll forget what you tell

me in thirty seconds. But what’s the real chances of getting young Byron Tim-

mons back from those bastards? And not hooked on something?”

“You heard about that, huh?”

1 3 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“His father and I go back a long way,” O’Day said. “He showed me Junior’s

letters. A good kid. I shouldn’t have said that. Young Byron’ s a good man.”

“All I can tell you is that we’re going to try like hell,” Castillo said. “With

a little luck . . .”

“Yeah. I get the picture,” O’Day said. “I was afraid of that. Thanks.”

A few minutes later, Castillo realized they were not headed downtown. In-

stead, they were moving through a residential area, and he guessed from that

that they were going to the Timmons home. Proof seemed to come several

minutes after that, when they turned one more corner and then stopped before

a simple brick house on a side street.

There was a police patrol car parked half up on the sidewalk, and three more

cars—unmarked but rather obviously police cars—parked in the driveway be-

side the house.

“Here we are,” he said. “I don’t envy you, Colonel.”

Castillo got out of the car and waited for the second car, which was

carrying McGuire, Munz, and Lorimer. He wordlessly indicated that he and

Lorimer would follow Captain O’Day up to the door and the others were to


Before the door chimes finished playing “Home Sweet Home,” the door was

opened by a gray-haired, plump, middle-aged woman wearing a cotton dress

and a pink sweater.

She looked at Castillo and then at Lorimer.

“You’re Eddie,” she said. “I’ve seen your pictures.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Lorimer said.

“Is it okay if I kiss you?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She hugged and kissed him.

“Honey,” she called. “Junior’s buddy Eddie is here.”

A large man in the uniform of a police captain walked up to them and put

out his hand.

“I’m Junior’s—Byron’s—dad.”

“Yes, sir, I know,” Lorimer said. “I’ve seen your pictures, too.”

Captain Byron Timmons, Sr., looked at Castillo.

“Sir,” Lorimer said, “this is Colonel Castillo.”

Timmons crushed Castillo’s hand in his massive hand.

“Colonel, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you,” he said. “The Presi-

dent told the mayor that if anybody can get my son back from those bastards,

you’re him.”

“I’m going to try very hard, sir,” Castillo said.


1 3 3

“Well, just don’t stand there in the door,” Mrs. Timmons said. “Come in

and meet the others. There’s coffee and cake.”

Captain Timmons took Castillo’s arm in a firm grasp and led him through

a short corridor to a living room. There were two women there, who looked

like Mrs. Timmons, and half a dozen men, two in police uniform and four in

casual clothes, who, Castillo decided, might as well have had POLICEMAN

painted on their foreheads.

“This is Colonel Castillo,” Captain Timmons announced. “The man the

President says can get Junior back. The lieutenant is Eddie Lorimer, Junior’s pal

down there in Paraguay. I don’t know who the others are. Colonel, what about

identifying the others, and then I’ll introduce everybody?”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said. “This is Colonel Jake Torine, U.S. Air Force, that’s

Tom McGui—”

“They’ve got their own Gulfstream airplane,” Captain O’Day furnished.

“I wondered how they got here so quick,” one of the cops said.

“. . . Tom McGuire,” Castillo went on, “who’s a Supervisory Special Agent

of the Secret Service, and this gentleman is Colonel Alfredo Munz, who before

his retirement was Chief of SIDE in Argentina. SIDE is sort of our CIA and

FBI rolled into one. Munz now works with us.”

“I thought Junior was in Paraguay,” one of the cops said.

“Paraguay and Argentina share a border, sir,” Castillo said.

“Okay, now it’s my turn,” Captain Timmons said, motioning for Castillo

to follow him to the people sitting on a couch, two matching armchairs, and

two chairs obviously borrowed from the dining room.

“This is Captain, retired, Frank Timmons, Junior’s grandfather, known as

Big Frank.”

“And I’m the goddamned fool, Colonel, God forgive me, who told Junior

to go federal.”

Castillo shook Big Frank’s hand, then Lorimer and McGuire and Munz fol-

lowed suit.

“And this is Sergeant Charley Mullroney, Junior’s sister Ellen’s husband—

that’s her over there. Charley works Narcotics on the job.”

Castillo shook Mullroney’s hand, then smiled and nodded at Mrs. Mull-

roney across the room.

“And this is Stan Wyskowski, of the DEA, Charley’s pal.”

“And I’m the guy who got Junior in the DEA, Colonel.”

Castillo shook Wyskowski’s hand.

Wyskowski, I admire your balls for being here. That has to be tough.

“And this is the mayor,” Captain Timmons said.

1 3 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Jesus H. Christ! I thought he was another cop-relative.

“The President speaks very highly of you, Colonel,” the mayor said as he

shook Castillo’s hand. “I’m happy to meet you, and that you are here.”

“An honor, sir,” Castillo said. “I’m sorry I have to be here under these cir-


“Well, Colonel, I’ve always found the way to deal with a problem is get it

out in the open and then start working on it.”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said.

“And this,” Captain Timmons said, moving to the third man on the

couch. “is . . .”

Castillo shook that man’s hand, but his name—or those of the others—

failed to register in his memory.

His mind was busy thinking of something else. . . .

The mayor, who the President has made perfectly clear is to get whatever he

wants from me, is not just doing a friend of the family a favor.

He’s part of this family.

“And that’s about it, I guess,” Lorimer said when he had finished telling every-

body what he knew of the situation.

He did that about as well as it could be done, Castillo thought.

“Would it be all right if I called you ‘Eddie’?” Captain Timmons asked.

“Yes, sir, of course.”

“That was a good job, Eddie,” Captain Timmons said. “I don’t have any

questions. Anybody else?”

“I got a couple,” Big Frank said.

“Sir?” Lorimer asked politely.

“That Irish Argentine cop, Duffy, Junior was on his way to see when these

slimeballs grabbed him. Are there a lot of Irish cops down there? And is this

one of the good ones? And what’s the Gendarmería Nacional?”

Lorimer glanced at Castillo, who nodded just perceptibly.

“I know Byron trusted Comandante Duffy, sir,” Lorimer said. “But maybe

Colonel Munz can speak to that?”

“I know Comandante Duffy,” Munz said. “Not well, but well enough to

know that he’s a good man. I haven’t spoken to him since this happened, but

he’s about the first man I’m going to talk to when we get down there. I’m sure

he’s almost as upset about Agent Timmons as you are.”

Big Frank nodded.

Munz went on: “So far as Irish people in Argentina, the ethnic mix in


1 3 5

Argentina—and Uruguay and Chile, but not Paraguay—is much like that in

the States. My family came from Germany, for example. There are more peo-

ple from Italy than from Spain. And many Irish. There are many Irish police,

especially in the Gendarmería Nacional.”

“Which is what?” Big Frank said.

“A police force with authority all over Argentina,” Munz said. “They are

a paramilitary force, more heavily armed than the Federal Police. They

wear brown rather than blue uniforms, and enjoy the trust of the Argentine


“What does that mean?” Big Frank asked. “The other cops aren’t trusted?”

“Can we agree, Captain, that dishonest police are an international prob-

lem?” Munz asked reasonably. “And that the problem is made worse by all

the cash available to drug people? Or, for that matter, the criminal commu-

nity generally?”

“I’d have to agree with that,” the mayor said.

“Let me put it this way,” Munz said. “When the Jewish Community Cen-

ter was blown up in Buenos Aires several years ago—”

“Blown up?” Captain Timmons asked. “By who?”

“Most of us believe the Iranians had something to do with it,” Munz said.

“But the point I was trying to make was, when it became obvious that protec-

tion of synagogues, etcetera, was going to be necessary, the Jewish community—

there are more Jews in Argentina than any place but New York—demanded,

and got, the Gendarmería Nacional as their protectors.”

“Meaning they didn’t trust the other cops?” Captain Timmons asked.

“Meaning they trusted the Gendarmería more,” Munz said.

“You’re slick, Colonel,” Big Frank said. “Take that as a compliment.”

“Thank you.”

“What was it you said you did for Colonel Castillo?”

“Whatever he asks me to do, Captain.”

“Slick, Colonel,” Big Frank said, smiling.

“Well, these bastards were waiting for Junior when he went to the airport,

which means somebody told them he was going to the airport,” Captain

O’Day said.

“Or they set up their roadblock in the reasonable belief that some Ameri-

can agent was probably going to be on the Buenos Aires flight,” Munz said. “It

may have had nothing to do with Agent Timmons going to see Coman-

dante Duffy.”

“And your gut feeling?” Big Frank asked softly.

“That Agent Timmons was specifically targeted.”

1 3 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Big Frank nodded in agreement. Special Agent Timmons’s mother in-

haled audibly.

“Well, these bastards don’t seem to mind whacking people,” Wyskowski

said. “They didn’t have to kill Junior’s driver, for Christ’s sake.”

This is going to drag on for a long time, Castillo thought, and probably turn

into a disaster.

“They were sending a goddamn message, Stan—” one of the others, whose

name Castillo had forgotten, began but was interrupted by His Honor the

Mayor, who apparently was thinking the same thing Castillo was.

“Well, I think we’ve learned everything that’s known,” the mayor said.

“My question is what happens next, Colonel Castillo? You’re going right

down there?”

“There are some things we have to do here first,” Castillo said. “Ambassador

Montvale, the DNI—”

“The what?” Sergeant Mullroney asked.

“The director of National Intelligence,” Castillo replied. “He’s going

to have all the experts in this area—from the various intelligence agencies—

waiting for us when we get back to Washington.”

“Well, that should be helpful,” the mayor said. “And with help in mind,

Colonel, I thought Sergeant Mullroney, with his experience in Narcotics, might

be useful to you, and I asked the commissioner to put him on temporary duty

with you.”

Oh, Jesus!

What’s he going to be useful doing is keeping the family aware of how we’re

stumbling around in the dark!

His Honor apparently saw something in Castillo’s face.

“I thought of that immediately after I last spoke with the President,” the

mayor said. “Do you have the authority to take him with you, or would it be

better for you if I suggested this to the President?”

Talk about slick! No wonder he’s the mayor for life.

“Welcome aboard, Sergeant Mullroney,” Castillo said. “Glad to have


“I sort of thought that you’d have the authority,” the mayor said. “The

President told me that he places his absolute trust in you. So I told Charley to

pack a bag—and his passport—before coming over here. So you’re going right

back to Washington?”

“No, sir. We’ve got to make a couple of stops first.”

The mayor stood up, obviously to leave.

“Really?” he asked.


1 3 7

The translation of that is “And where are you going to waste time instead of

getting to work on this immediately, as I expect you to?”

Oh, what the hell. When in doubt, tell the truth.

“Las Vegas, Mr. Mayor. The airplane needs some maintenance, and we’re

having radios installed that will permit us to communicate—securely—with the

White House no matter where we are.”

The mayor examined him carefully, then smiled.

“Just like Air Force One, huh?”

“Almost, Mr. Mayor.”

“When my plane is in for work, it takes them forever and a day,” the mayor

said. “I suppose for you things go a little quicker, don’t they?”

The translation of that is “And how long is that going to take?”

“They expect us, sir. They’ll work through the night to get us out as quickly

as they can.”

The mayor nodded, then went through the room, shaking all the men’s

hands and kissing the women on the cheek. Then he walked out of the living

room with Captain O’Day following closely.

Mrs. Timmons kissed Lorimer, then grabbed Castillo by both arms.

“I’ll pray for you, Colonel, to get my son back soon. Before . . . before any -

thing happens to him.”

“Thank you. We’ll do our best.”

Then everybody shook hands with everybody else.

The mayor was standing on the sidewalk—surprising Castillo—when he

and the others came down the stairs.

Castillo then thought he understood why when a black Lincoln limousine

turned the corner.

“Oh, there it is,” the mayor said, and turned to Castillo. “If there’s anything

you need, Colonel, give me a call. Sometimes—I’m not without influence—I

can be helpful.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

Captain O’Day opened the door of the limousine.

“You’ll have to use the jump seats,” the mayor said. “And someone will

have to ride up front, but there’ll be room for all of you.” He nodded at the

others. “It’s been a real pleasure to meet all of you.”

Then the mayor of Chicago got in the front seat of one of the black Crown

Victoria Police Interceptors, and Captain O’Day drove him away.

1 3 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N


Pilots’ Lounge

Atlantic Aviation Services Operations

Midway International Airport

Chicago, Illinois

1635 2 September 2005

Castillo motioned to Munz to come with him. They walked out of earshot of

the others.

“I’ve just had more proof that I’m stupid, Alfredo,” Castillo said.

Munz looked curiously at him but didn’t reply.

“Would you really rather be with your family at the Double-Bar-C, or with

us standing around a hangar in Las Vegas?”

“Wherever I would be most useful, Karl,” Munz said in German.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“With my family.”

“And not in Vegas?”

Munz nodded.

“That’s what I thought. And I should have thought of it right away. That’s

what I meant by proof of stupidity.”

“You have nothing else on your mind, of course,” Munz said.

“So what we’ll do is just drop you at the ranch and worry about getting to-

gether later. I wish you had one of our cellulars.”

Munz reached into his jacket pocket and held up a cellular telephone.

“Miller gave me this,” he said, “and this.” He held up a thin sheaf of

one-hundred-dollar bills held together with a Riggs National Bank band. “He

said he’s working on the credit cards.”

“Make sure you get receipts for everything you spend,” Castillo said. “Agnes

flips her lid if you don’t.” He reached for the cellular. “Let me put your num-

ber in mine.”

After he had done that, he started to push an autodial button on his cellu-

lar. He stopped and looked at Munz.

“And now for proof that I am an unprincipled sonofabitch, watch as I lie

to my grandmother.”

He pushed the autodial button.

“This is Carlos, Juanita,” he said in Spanish a moment later. “Is Doña Ali-

cia available?”

He turned to Munz. “She is, damn it.”


1 3 9

“Abuela,” he said a moment later. “You remember that story you told me

about George Washington and the cherry tree?

“Well, neither can I.

“We’re in Chicago. Alfredo Munz is with us.


“We’re going to drop him off at the Double-Bar-C. And I can’t do anything

more than just that. I really can’t. That’s the George Washington So Help Me

God Boy Scout’s Honor Truth. I have to be somewhere else as soon as I can

get there.

“I was afraid you’d ask. Las Vegas. But it’s business. Believe me.

“Of course I’ll have time to give you a kiss. We should be there in a little

over two hours.

“I love you, Abuela,” he said, and turned to Munz.

“Great lady,” Castillo said. “She believed me. Didn’t give me any static

at all.”

“So my wife says,” Munz said. “I’m looking forward to meeting her.”

Castillo pushed another autodial button, then the LOUDSPEAKER key.

“I want you to listen to this one. You should know about Aloysius Fran-

cis Casey.”

“What?” a thin, somewhat belligerent voice demanded over the phone’s

loudspeaker a moment later.

“This is Charley Castillo, Dr. Casey.”

“Ah, the boy colonel. How many goddamn times do I have to tell you to

call me Frank?”

“Another couple hundred times might do it.”

“I hear you’re headed out here. When?”

“We’re leaving in a couple of minutes—we’re in Chicago—and we have to

make a stop in Midland, Texas. Say two hours to Midland, and another hour

and forty-five minutes to get from Midland to Vegas. We should be on the

ground about twenty-thirty or thereabouts.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Jake, of course, and a young Green Beanie who took a pretty bad hit in

Afghanistan. And Tom McGuire—”

“He gets a pass because he’s a Boston Irishman. Who else?”

“How about a pass for a Chicago cop named Mullroney? He’s Irish, too.”

“Who the hell is he?”

“I’ll tell you when I’m there. Could you get us rooms near McCarren?”

“You’ll stay with me.”

“There’s five of us!”

1 4 0


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“There’s room. Tell me about the Green Beanie who took the hit.”

“Rocket-propelled grenade. One of his legs is titanium from the knee


“He need anything special?”


“He’s working with you?”


“I’ve been working on stuff to set off those goddamn IEDs before they can

cause anybody any harm, but those goddamn RPGs . . .”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Okay, I’ll see you when you get here.”


Double-Bar-C Ranch

Near Midland, Texas

1845 2 September 2005

As the Gulfstream taxied back toward the hangar, Castillo saw four women

standing by a silver Jaguar XJ8. Fifty yards away, near an enormous, slowly bob-

bing horse-head oil pump, several horses and maybe a dozen Santa Gertrudis

steers stood watching.

There had been horses and Santa Gertrudis cattle grazing on the Double-

Bar-C long before the first automobile had bounced over the West Texas

prairie, and long before the first well had tapped the Permian Oil Basin

beneath it.

The first time Castillo had been shown the ranch—he was twelve at the

time—his newly discovered grandfather, Don Fernando Castillo, had told him,

“We were comfortable, Carlos, before they put the first hole down. I often

think we were happier—life was certainly simpler—before they found the oil.”

And seeing the pump now, he had the same reaction to it he’d had to the

first pump he’d ever seen:

Every time that thing goes up and down, it’s fifty cents in his pocket.

And there’re a lot of those pumps.

The only difference between then and now is that today West Texas sweet crude

brings fifty bucks a barrel.

That, and Abuela left the Double-Bar-C to me.

The women waiting for the Gulfstream were Castillo’s grandmother—his

abuela—and Colonel Alfredo Munz’s wife and two daughters.


1 4 1

The warmth of his memory of Don Fernando turned to cold anger with the

sight of the Munzes . . . and the reason they were at the ranch.

Goddamn the miserable bastards who go after a man’s family.

Munz’s family had come to the Double-Bar-C because of a very real threat

to their lives in Argentina.

“Wake up, First Officer,” Jake Torine said. “We are, no thanks to you, safely

on the ground.”

Castillo unfastened his shoulder harness and went into the cabin.

Alfredo Munz was already out of his seat, waiting for the stair door to be

opened. Castillo worked it, and then waved Munz off the plane first.

Castillo saw that Munz had not taken his suitcase with him. He picked it

up and went down the stairs with it. He saw the younger girl running toward

her father, followed by the older girl, and then, moving more slowly, Señora

Munz. In a moment, Munz had his arms around all of them.

Castillo looked at Doña Alicia and saw that she had a handkerchief to

her eyes.

And mine aren’t exactly dry, either.

He went to his grandmother. She put her arms around him.

“Hey, Abuela, how’s my favorite girl?”

“Very annoyed with you, as usual,” she said, and kissed him.

She looked at the Munzes.

“How long is he going to stay?” she asked.

“Until I need him, and that will probably be soon. A couple days.”

“And when will it be safe for his family to go back to Argentina?”

“Not for a while yet.”

“And when are you going to come and stay longer than ten minutes?”

Divulgence of any detail of any operation conducted under the authority

of a Presidential Finding to persons not holding the specific Top Secret Presi-

dential security clearance is a felonious violation of the United States Code, pun-

ishable by fine and imprisonment.

“A drug enforcement agent in Paraguay has been kidnapped by drug deal-

ers,” Castillo said. “The President wants us to try to get him back, and I have

no idea how to do that.”

She looked at him but did not reply.

“I don’t have to tell you to keep that to yourself, do I?”

She shook her head to show the admonition was entirely unnecessary.

“I don’t know whether I’m very proud of you, my darling, or very sad for

you,” she said. “I guess both.”

Five minutes later, the Gulfstream III broke ground.

1 4 2


. E . B . G R I F F I N


McCarren International Airport

Las Vegas, Nevada

2055 2 September 2005

A tug stood waiting outside the AFC hangar, and as a ground handler signaled

for Castillo’s Gulfstream III to shut down its engines, the doors of the hangar

began to slide open.

Inside the hangar, Castillo saw that a glistening new Gulfstream V, three

older Lears, a Beechcraft King Air and an old but nicely refurbished Cessna 150

had been moved to one side to make room for his G-III.

And then he saw there was a Cadillac Escalade in the hangar. Dr. Aloysius

Francis Casey, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of AFC, Inc.,

was sitting sideward in the driver’s seat, the driver’s door open. He was wear-

ing his usual baggy black suit.

The tug hooked up to the nose gear of the G-III and dragged the aircraft

into the hangar. Two men in white coveralls with the AFC logotype on the chest

hooked up an auxiliary power cable.

Castillo opened the stair door and went down it, with Torine following.

Casey pushed himself off the seat of the Escalade and walked to them.

“How are you, Charley?” he asked, shaking his hand, then Torine’s.

“Always good to see you, Colonel,” Casey said.

“Always good to see you, too, Dr. Casey,” Torine said. “And we really


“Goddamn it! I keep telling you and the Boy Colonel here that it’s Frank,”

Casey said. “I’m starting to get pissed off about that!”

“Sorry, Frank,” Torine said.

Casey looked toward the men in coveralls and raised his voice: “Get the lug-

gage off of that, and put it in my truck.”

The men hurried to do his bidding.

Tom McGuire, Ed Lorimer, and, bringing up the rear, Charley Mullroney

came down the stairs and somewhat hesitantly walked to them.

Casey put out his hand to Lorimer and said, “Any Special Forces guy is

always welcome. My name is Frank Casey. Call me Frank. I did some time as

a commo sergeant on an A-Team in ’Nam. Mostly over the fence in Laos and


“Yes, sir,” Lorimer said.

“You call me sir one more time, and you can sleep on your airplane. Clear?”


1 4 3

“Yes, s— Frank.”

“You’re learning,” Casey said, then pointed his right index finger at Castillo

and Torine. “Which is more than I can say for these two.”

He turned to McGuire and Mullroney and said, “Usually I have as little as

possible to do with cops, but since you two are Irish and with these guys you

get a pass.”

He shook their hands, then said: “Come on and get in the truck. We’ll go

out to the house and hoist a couple and burn some meat.”

They had turned off U. S. Highway 93 a few minutes before, and were driving

down a macadam two-lane road toward the mountains. Castillo, sitting beside

Casey in the front seat of the Escalade, was wondering what electronics were

behind the dashboard to power the two telephone handsets and a large liquid

crystal display screen—now displaying the AFC logo and STANDBY—mounted

on the dash.

Casey suddenly said, “Before we get to the house, I think I should tell you

the wife passed. . . .”

“I hadn’t heard that, Frank,” Castillo said. “I’m very sorry.”

“Yeah, well, we all have to go sometime, and, thank God, Mary Alice went

good. She took a little nap by the pool and never woke up.”

“I’m sorry, Frank,” Castillo repeated.

“Me, too, Frank,” Jake Torine said.

“Anyway, I got a couple taking care of me at the house. Good people, but

you probably want to be careful what you say when they’re around.”

“Thanks,” Castillo said, and then, as much to change the subject as any-

thing else, asked, “What’s this stuff?”

Casey looked and saw where Castillo was pointing.

“Oh, that stuff,” he said, as if he welcomed the chance to change the

subject. “The left handset is an encrypted tie to my communications. The

right one, and the display, is pretty much what they’re putting in your air-


“Is it working?” Castillo said.

“It damned well better be.”

“I could get my office on that? The White House switchboard?”

“You can get anybody on your net but the White House,” Casey said. “I

didn’t think I’d better put a link in there. When the new stuff is in the airplane,

you’d be linked to the White House, just like your truck. But your office can

patch you through to the White House.”

1 4 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

I don’t want to talk to the White House.

I want to talk to Nuestra Pequeña Casa. I really have to start things moving

down there.

But is the radio still up? Or did Sergeant Kensington shut down when we left?

There’s only one way to find out.

“Can I try it?”

“Help yourself.”

“How does it work?”

“Pick it up, say your name, give it a couple of seconds for the voice identi -

fication to work, and then say who you want to talk to.”

“There’s an operator?”

“There’s a little black box.”

“And it’s encrypted?”

“Not even NSA will know what you’re saying.”

Castillo picked up the handset. The AFC logo on the display screen dis-

appeared, and then STANDBY went away. ACTIVATING appeared, and then



“No more little green and red LEDs,” Casey said.

“Clever,” Castillo said.

“No recognition,” a metallic voice came over the handset speaker.


“No recognition,” the metallic voice repeated.


“Go ahead, Colonel Castillo.”

“Nuestra Pequeña Casa.”

“No recognition.”


“No recognition.”

“Safe House.”

There was a moment’s delay, then Sergeant Robert Kensington’s voice

came cheerfully over the speaker in the handset: “How’s things in Vegas,

Dr. Casey?”

“Colonel Castillo, Bob. How’s things where you are? And where are you?”

“In the quincho, sir.”

“I was afraid that all might be shut down.”

“Mr. Darby decided it would make more waves if everybody suddenly van-

ished, so we’re still here.”

“Who’s we?”


1 4 5

“The Sienos, Ricardo Solez, and me.”

“Darby’s at the embassy?”

“No, sir. He went to Asunción. He said if you called to tell you he and Tony

Santini were going to make sure the cork was back in the bottle.”

“We don’t have a secure link to Asunción, do we?”

“No, sir. And Mr. Santini said not to send any messages unless we had to.”

“What about Ricardo. Is he there?”

“He went grocery shopping in Pilar. I can get him on his cellular, if

you want.”

“No. Here’s what I want you to do. Get through to Darby or Santini, and

tell them the situation has changed. They are to stay there until Solez can

get there to explain, and then to act accordingly. And then get Solez back

from the supermarket, tell him we have been tasked to get back that DEA

agent who got himself kidnapped, and to get on the next plane to Asunción to

tell Darby and Santini. Nobody in the embassy there— nobody—is to be told

about this.”

“Yes, sir. Well, that’s good news, Colonel. That DEA guy is a pretty good

guy, according to Solez.”

“It is the opposite of good news, Bob. I haven’t a clue about how to get

him back.”

“You’ll think of something, Colonel,” Kensington said. “You always do.”

Well, there’s a vote of confidence.

The trouble is it’s completely unjustified.

“And tell Solez to ask Darby and Santini, both, to get on a secure line to

me as soon as they can.”

“You’re with Dr. Casey?”


“Can I ask what you’re doing, sir?”

“Drinking, gambling, and chasing naked women,” Castillo said. “What

else does one do in Las Vegas? Get right on this, please, Bob.”

“I already have Solez on his cellular.”

“Okay. Breaking down,” Castillo said. He covered the mouthpiece with his

hand and turned to Casey. “How do I do that?”

“Say ‘Finished’ or ‘Break it down.’ ”

“Break it down,” Castillo said.

“Disconnecting,” the metallic voice said in his ear.



Valley View Ranch

North Las Vegas, Nevada

2345 2 September 2005

“Yeah, I know it’s almost two in the morning back there,” Sergeant Charley

Mullroney said into his cellular phone. “I got a watch. This is the first chance

I had to call.”

He was standing on a small patio carved out of the mountain about fifty

feet below and fifty yards from his room in the house. Small dim lights lined

the path leading to the house and were mounted on a low stone wall at the edge

of the patio.

He had peered over the edge of the wall. The lights didn’t illuminate much,

but there was enough light to see it was almost a sheer drop from the patio wall

for at least fifty feet, and probably more.

“Not in Vegas, Byron. Maybe twenty-five miles outside of Vegas. On the

side of a mountain—

“You want to keep interrupting me, or do you want me to tell you what hap-


“Okay. First we landed in the middle of nowhere where that German or Ar-

gentine or whateverthefuck he is colonel got off.

“No. There was no sign anywhere. This was a private field. I think Cas-

tillo’s got something to do with it. He got off the airplane and kissed some

old lady.

“Then we come to Vegas. They parked the airplane in a hangar and some

little guy named Casey drove us out here in a Cadillac Suburban or whatever-

thefuck they call them.

“Did I learn anything on the airplane? No. McGuire, the Secret Service guy,

did a pretty good job of pumping me to find out what I do on the job. But when

I asked him, like, ‘Where are we going?’, or when we landed in the middle of

nowhere, ‘Where was that? What was that?’, he turned into a clam. And when

I asked him what he did for Castillo, he said, ‘This and that.’


1 4 7

“Okay, so we got here and this Casey character brings us out here in his

white Escalade—that’s what they call those Cadillac Suburbans, Escalades

“Great big fucking house on the side of a mountain. Great big fucking

swimming pool. The room they gave me is about as big as my whole downstairs.

Jacuzzi and a shower that’s so big it don’t even need a door. But the cellular says

‘no signal,’ so I couldn’t call, so I figured I’d wait until later.

“So this guy Casey’s got a barbecue set up. With a cook, and great big

steaks. And enough booze to take a bath in. So Castillo cooks the steaks and

they start in on the booze and I figure maybe now I’ll learn something.

“Didn’t happen. All they did was talk about the Army. The Special Forces.

I don’t know how much is bullshit, but this Casey guy, to hear him tell it, prac-

tically won the Vietnam War by himself.

“I don’t know if they believed it or not, Byron. I think so, but nobody’s

going to call a guy a bullshitter in his own house. Especially since he’s putting

free radios in your airplane.

“Because Castillo told him he’s got a bunch of money in something called

the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund and can pay for them. Casey said,

‘You know your money’s no good here, Charley.’

“I don’t know what Casey’s angle is, and if there’s any connection with

this Lorimer Charitable Whatever and Junior’s buddy Lorimer, I don’t know

what it is.

“Okay, so finally I said I had a long day and was going to turn in. So I went

to my room and then out onto a little patio, whatever, outside it. You can see

just about all there is to see in Vegas from there. And, for the hell of it, I tried

the cellular again. I got maybe a bar and a half, so I see another patio down the

mountain, about fifty yards from the house, walked to it, and the fucker works

here. So I called you.

“Yeah, Byron, I know it ain’t much, but you just got all I have.

“I have no fucking idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. They don’t pass

out a schedule, for Christ’s sake.

“Yeah, I’ll call you whenever I have something.”

Mullroney took the cell phone from his ear and looked at it.

“You sonofabitch,” he said, “you hung up me!”

“Perhaps he didn’t hang up on you, Sergeant Mullroney,” Castillo said.

Mullroney jumped.

“Perhaps you just lost the connection,” Castillo went on, evenly. “Cellulars

are not very reliable out here.”

“You scared me, Colonel,” Mullroney said after a moment. “I didn’t hear

you come up.”

1 4 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

I didn’t scare you, I don’t think.

But I think I embarrassed you.

“Was there something wrong with the telephone in your room, Sergeant

Mullroney? Couldn’t get a dial tone?”

Mullroney didn’t reply.

“Or was it because you didn’t want us to know you were making your

report to Captain Timmons? Is that why you sneaked out here to use your


Mullroney looked at him almost defiantly.

Not really “fuck you” defiant. He’s worried.

Now let’s see how far I can push him.

Castillo held out his hand and wiggled the fingers in a Give it to me


Mullroney looked at Castillo’s hand and then his face and back at the hand.

“Give me the phone,” Castillo ordered.

Mullroney looked again at Castillo’s face, as if trying to understand.

So what do I do now? Try to take it away from him?

“Give me the phone,” Castillo repeated.

Mullroney didn’t move or respond.

“Give the colonel the fucking phone, asshole, or I’ll throw you and it off

the mountain.”

The voice in the dark startled Castillo. He hadn’t heard anyone walking up

on them. He now saw that Lorimer was standing beside him.

“I’m not going to tell you again,” Lorimer said.

Mullroney put the cellular in Castillo’s hand.

Castillo threw it down the mountain.

“What the fuck?” Mullroney protested, incredulously.

“You are not permitted to have a cellular telephone,” Castillo said


“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Mullroney demanded.

There wasn’t much conviction in that indignation.

“The next time you say something like that to the colonel, I’m going to

break your arm before I throw you down the mountain.”

“Fuck you, soldier boy,” Mullroney said.

Five seconds later, Sergeant Mullroney found himself on his stomach.

His arm was twisted painfully behind him, his cheek was pressed into

the rough ground, and Lieutenant Lorimer’s knee—the titanium one, Castillo

saw—was pressed painfully into the small of his back.

He howled in pain.


1 4 9

“Permission to dislocate his shoulder, sir?” Lorimer asked.

Castillo waited five seconds—long enough, he judged, for Mullroney to

have time to consider that he might actually be about to have his shoulder

dislocated—before replying: “Put him on his back, Lieutenant. If he even looks

like he’s considering trying to get up, kick some teeth out.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ten seconds later, Sergeant Mullroney was lying absolutely motionless on

his back. Lieutenant Lorimer was squatting at his head, pulling Mullroney’s chin

back with one hand, and holding the eight-inch blade of a knife against his

throat with the other.

“Permission to speak, sir?” Lieutenant Lorimer said.


“Let me toss him down the mountain, sir.”

“I don’t want to kill him unless I have to,” Castillo said.

“Just let him get busted up a little, sir,” Lorimer argued. “Break an ankle, a

leg, an arm.”

“How would we explain his accident?” Castillo asked reasonably.

“Well, everybody knows he’s a boozer. I’ll call Captain Timmons and tell

him he got drunk, was wandering around the mountain and fell off.”

“Is that a credible scenario?”

“Yes, sir, I think so. Who are they going believe? The family drunk, or you

and me?”

“The problem with that is they would just send somebody else to snoop on

us,” Castillo said.

“That’s true, sir,” Lorimer acknowledged. “But we could deal with that sit-

uation as it came up. And we could probably be long gone before they could

send someone else.”

“True. Okay. Sergeant Mullroney, you have ten seconds to tell me why I

should not permit Lieutenant Lorimer to throw you down the mountain.”

“You people are out of your fucking minds!” Sergeant Mullroney said.

“Possibly,” Castillo said. “But I don’t see that as a reason not to send you

down the mountain. Five seconds.”

“I’m a cop, for Christ sake! You can’t get away with this!”

“Time’s up,” Castillo said. “Carry on, Lieutenant.”

“What we’re going to do now,” Lieutenant Lorimer said, touching the tip

of the knife blade to the throat to discourage any sudden movement, “is very

slowly get to our feet. . . .”

“Jesus, what the fuck do you want from me? You don’t want me to call

Chicago? All right, I won’t call Chicago. I swear to God! I swear on my mother’s

1 5 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

grave I’ll never call Chicago! Jesus Christ! Please! I’ve got a wife—Junior’s

sister—and kids . . .”

“He doesn’t get the picture, does he, Lieutenant?”

“No, sir. It would appear he doesn’t have a clue.”

“Explain it to him, please.”

“Yes, sir. Asshole, we don’t care if you call Chicago every hour on the hour.

But what we can’t have is you running at the mouth to somebody else who’ll

run at the mouth and blow this operation and get people—including my

pal Byron—killed.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Sergeant Mullroney said, more than a little right-

eously. “Junior’s my brother-in-law, for Christ’s sake. My wife’s brother.”

“I’ve always wondered what a brother-in-law was,” Castillo said. “Thank

you for clearing that up for me.”

“What?” Mullroney asked, visibly confused.

“Have you anything else you want to say to us?” Castillo asked.

“What the fuck do I have to say to make you understand I’d never do any-

thing to hurt Junior?”

“Byron told me he told you not to call him ‘Junior’ and you wouldn’t stop

until he knocked you on your ass,” Lorimer said. “And we have a similar situ-

ation here, wouldn’t you say, Colonel?”

“I’m afraid it looks that way to me,” Castillo said.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!”

“Exactly as it was necessary for Byron to knock you on your ass to get you

not to say the wrong thing, it looks to me that I’m going to have to put you

down the mountain now to keep you from saying the wrong thing. We’re talk-

ing about people getting killed because of your runaway mouth.”

“I’d never say . . .” Sergeant Mullroney began, then he had a sudden inspi-

ration. “What if I told you what I was going to say to Jun . . . Byron’ s father be-

fore I said it. I mean, before I called. And you could tell me if there was

something I shouldn’t say. And I wouldn’t. And you could listen to me making

the call. . . .”

When there was no reaction from either Castillo or Lorimer, Mullroney

added, somewhat plaintively, “Jesus, guys, we’re on the same side here.”

“You don’t call the colonel ‘guy,’ Asshole,” Lorimer said.

“Sorry, Colonel, sir.”

“That might work, sir,” Lorimer said. “Operative word might. On the other

hand, I don’t want to have to kill him unless it’s really necessary.”

“Give me a chance, and I promise you’ll never regret it,” Mullroney said.

“What do you want to do, sir, flip a coin?” Lorimer asked, his tone serious.


1 5 1

“As he points out, Lieutenant, he is Special Agent Timmons’s brother-in-law.

If it could be avoided, I would prefer not to get Special Agent Timmons back

only to tell him that we had to terminate his brother-in-law in order to guar-

antee the security of the operation. . . .”

“For your consideration, sir, Special Agent Timmons is not all that fond of

the asshole.”

“Nevertheless, I think that we should take the chance.”

“Yes, sir,” Lieutenant Lorimer said, his voice showing his deep disap-


“Let him up, Lieutenant,” Castillo ordered. “Get him on his feet.”

“You heard the colonel, Asshole. Stand up.”

“Sergeant,” Castillo then said, “I want you to understand that I am autho-

rizing your immediate termination should you ever get close to a telephone

without Lieutenant Lorimer or myself being present. Understood?”


Lorimer barked, “Say ‘yes, sir’ when you’re talking to the colonel!”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are dismissed, Sergeant. Please stay in your room until you are called

for breakfast.”

“Yes, sir.”

Castillo made a motion as if brushing away a fly, and Sergeant Mullroney

started quickly walking up the path to the house.

Fifteen seconds later, Colonel Castillo whispered, “If you are about to

have the giggles, Lorimer, and Asshole hears you, I’ll throw you down the


Lieutenant Lorimer acknowledged the order by bobbing his head.

He didn’t trust himself to open his mouth, the bottom lip of which he was

biting as hard as he could.


Lieutenant Colonel Castillo leaned over Lieutenant Lorimer, who was sprawled

on a chaise lounge by the side of the swimming pool, and very carefully topped

off Lorimer’s glass of Famous Grouse with more of the same.

“Lieutenant Lorimer,” Castillo said, “I am a lieutenant colonel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And, you may have noticed, I wear a green beret.”

“Yes, sir, I did notice that.”

1 5 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“And, as I am sure you know, while some lieutenant colonels sometimes

make mistakes, and some Special Forces officers sometimes make mistakes,

when a Special Forces lieutenant colonel makes a mistake, it is truly a cold

day in hell.”

“So I have been led to believe, sir.”

“That being understood between us, there is sometimes an exception to the

rule just cited.”

“I find that difficult to accept, sir.”

“Nevertheless, I think perhaps—as difficult as this may be for you to

accept—I made a mistake about you.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Frankly, Lieutenant, when you approached Mullroney and me with stealth

worthy of the finest Comanche, I really had no idea how to deal with the son-


“With respect, Colonel, sir, I believe his name is Asshole. And I think the

asshole is now under control, sir.”

“The knife at his throat when you rolled him over, Lieutenant—don’t let

this go to your head—was masterful. I would not be surprised to learn that

Sergeant Mullroney soiled his undies.”

“I would be disappointed to learn that he didn’t, Colonel.”

“The problem of a police officer being embedded with us having been

solved—I devoutly hope—let us now turn our attention to the big picture. How

do we get your friend back?”

“Yeah,” Lorimer said, and exhaled audibly. “How the hell do we do that?”

“To get him back, we have to know a lot of things, starting with who has

him. And where. Your thoughts, please?”

“May I infer from the colonel’s question that I am now regarded as part of

the team, so to speak?”

“From this moment on, you may regard yourself as the psychological war-

fare officer of the team. You seem to have some skill in that area.”

“I am humbled by that responsibility, sir, and will try very hard to justify

your confidence in me.”

“Where do these bastards have him, Eddie?”

“Well, he could be in Asunción, but I don’t think so. If I had to bet, they’ve

got him in the boonies somewhere. Either in Paraguay or across the river in


“Bearing in mind that you’re betting with a man’s life, why?”

“That’s boonieland up there, Argentina and Paraguay. You can raid a house

in a city a lot easier than you can in the boonies.”


1 5 3

“Meaning that if you’re holding somebody in a remote farmhouse, you can

see the good guys coming?”

“If there’s only one road going someplace, they know you’re coming long

before you get there. You’ve got somebody in the bag, you just march him off

into the woods, and look innocent when somebody shows up at the door.”

“So what we have to do is not only find where he is—I’ll get back to that

in a minute—but come up with some way to get enough people in there with

the element of surprise.”

“Yeah,” Lorimer said. “And that won’t be easy.”

“I’m going off at a tangent here, Eddie.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Something was said about Timmons’s driver being taken out by these peo-

ple. I want to make sure I heard it right. Tell me about that.”

“They found the embassy car parked against the fence of the airport. It’s

called the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport—you want all the details

like that?”

Castillo nodded.

“Anything that comes into your mind, Eddie. My data bank is pretty


“Typical Third World airport,” Lorimer went on. “It used to be called the

Presidente General Stroessner Airport, and you can still see signs with his name

on them. He was the president, read dictator, for thirty-five years. Apparently

a world-class sonofabitch—”

“Presidente General Alfredo Stroessner,” Castillo interrupted, “was exiled to

Brazil in 1989 after a coup by General Andrés Rodríguez. I don’t know where

the hell I got that, but the data bank apparently isn’t completely empty. And,

I just remembered, he was cozy with the Nazis, the ones who fled to South

America after World War Two. Interesting.”

“Why? Is that important?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute. And the next time we have a little chat like this,

I’ll have to remember to bring the laptop so I can write all this down. I tend to

forget things I hear when I’m drinking. Go on, please, Eddie.”

“The embassy car was parked against the fence across the field from the ter-

minal. The driver was on the floor of the backseat choked to death.”

“Strangled, you mean?”

“I don’t know if that’s the word. He had a gizmo around his neck, like

those plastic handcuffs the cops use, but metal.”

“With a handle?” Castillo asked, quietly, and mimed how the handle would

be used.

1 5 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Lorimer nodded.

“It’s called a garrote,” Castillo said. “One of them was used to take out a

friend of mine, Sergeant First Class Sy Kranz, who was a damned good special

operator, when the Ninjas jumped us at Estancia Shangri-La.”

“I never heard that you lost anybody.”

“We lost Sy Kranz,” Castillo said. “And taking him out wasn’t easy, which

told us right off that the Ninjas we took out were pros.”

“How much about that operation are you going to tell me, Colonel?”

“We later found out that one of the people we took out was Major Alejan-

dro Vincenzo of the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia. We think the

others were probably either ex-Stasi or ex-ÁVO or ex-ÁVH, probably being run

by the FSB.”

“Colonel, except for the FSB, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who

was the FSB running? Jesus, what was going on at that farm?”

Estancia,” Castillo corrected him without thinking. “Estancia Shangri-La.

This much we know: Jean-Paul Lorimer, an American who worked for the

UN, was a—probably the—bagman in that Iraqi Oil for Food cesspool. We

know he set himself up with a phony identification and name on the estancia.

We know he had sixteen million dollars. Whether he earned that as the bag-

man or stole it, we don’t know. We know that a team of pros was sent to the

estancia. We think their basic mission was to whack him to shut his mouth.

They may have been after the money, too. And we’re pretty sure the others were

ex-Stasi. . . .”

He stopped when he remembered Lorimer didn’t know what he was talk-

ing about.

“Stasi, Eddie, was the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit—

Ministry for State Security. ÁVO—Államvédelmi Osztály—and later ÁVH—

Államvédelmi Hatóság—did about the same thing when Hungary was still

under the communists.”

“And they were involved in that oil-for-food business?”

“They were hired guns, we think, for people who were involved in it,”

Castillo said.

“Like who?”

Castillo ignored the question.

“The one thing the Stasi and the Hungarians had in common, Eddie—aside

from being some very unpleasant people very good at what they did—was

using the garrote as the silent whacking weapon of choice.”

“You’re saying you think these people are involved with what happened

to Timmons?”


1 5 5

“I’m saying it’s very interesting that Timmons’s driver was garroted with

the same kind of garrote they used on Sergeant Kranz, and tried to use on Eric


Lorimer considered what he’d heard, then said, “I don’t think anyone in

Asunción thinks we’re dealing with anything but drug dealers.”

“And maybe we’re not,” Castillo said. “But to finish filling you in on what

happened at Shangri-La, the official version—the Uruguayan government ver-

sion—is that it was a drug deal gone wrong. They know better, but apparently

have decided it’s best for them to sweep what really happened under the rug.

This is made somewhat easier for them by our ambassador, who can’t believe

that a special operation could happen without his knowing about it. He decided

that Lorimer was shipping cocaine in antique vases and a deal went wrong. The

Uruguayans decided to let it go at that.”

“So you came out clean?”

“For a while, I thought we had.”


“We were at the safe house in Pilar, just about to wind up putting things

together—Inspector Doherty called it ‘an investigation to determine what has

to be investigated’—when Max caught you sneaking through the bushes.”


“Opening the possibility that others may have put together what you did.

So we quickly folded the tent and came home. And I again thought we’d come

out clean. And then the President said, ‘Go get Special Agent Timmons.’ So now

we’re going to have to go back down there, and the whole thing is back at risk

of being compromised.”

“You don’t have to go back to Uruguay, do you?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised that as we try to do this, we’ll have to go to

Uruguay. And there’s something else.”


“Lorimer’s father is a retired ambassador. Apparently a very good guy. He

lost his house in New Orleans to the hurricane. And he’s decided that until

things settle down, he wants to take his wife and go to Estancia Shangri-La,

which he now owns.”


“Yeah. And—since he has a serious heart condition—the secretary of State

thought it would be best if he didn’t learn what a miserable sonofabitch his son

was. He thinks the bastard was killed by roving bandits. Among the other im-

possible things I have to do, one is talk him out of going to Uruguay. Not only

would it be dangerous for him and his wife—”

1 5 6


. E . B . G R I F F I N


“The money, for one thing.”

“What money?”

“The sixteen million. We have it, but they don’t know that.”

“You have it?” Lorimer asked, surprised.

Castillo nodded. “It’s now the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund.”

Which also now has forty-six million of illegal oil-for-food profits that Philip

J. Kenyon of Midland, Texas, thought he had safely hidden from the IRS and the

Justice Department—and everybody else—in the Caledonian Bank and Trust Lim-

ited in the Cayman Islands.

I don’t think Lorimer has to know about that. I’ve already given him enough

to think about.

Which means I’ve already told him too much.

“That’s how we pay for everything,” Castillo went on.

“I wondered about that,” Lorimer said. “So what happens now?”

“Now we go to bed,” Castillo said. “Not only is my tail dragging, but I’ve

learned—painfully—that the brilliant thoughts I have at one o’clock in the

morning with half a bag on turn out to be stupid in the morning.”


Valley View Ranch

North Las Vegas, Nevada

0835 3 September 2005

When Castillo, wearing a polo shirt and khaki slacks, walked out of the house

to the pool, he found Tom McGuire, Jake Torine, and Lorimer, all in sports

shirts and slacks, sitting at a table drinking coffee. He saw Casey’s cook stand-

ing by an enormous stainless steel gas grill that apparently also functioned as

an ordinary stove, and decided they were politely waiting for their host to show

up before eating.

Jake nodded at Castillo but didn’t speak.

“Eddie,” Castillo ordered, “why don’t you ask Sergeant Mullroney to join

us for breakfast?”

Lorimer wordlessly got out of his chair and went into the house.

“Is he—the cop—going to be a problem, Charley?” Torine asked.

“I think that’s been taken care of. I’ll tell you later. Here comes Frank.”

Aloysius Francis Casey came out of the house.

“Jesus, you didn’t have to wait for me,” Casey said. “Just tell Walter what

you want.”


1 5 7

He motioned for the cook to come to the table and poured himself a cup

of coffee.

“Feed my friends, Walter,” he ordered. “You name it, Walter can make it.”

“Pheasant under glass,” Torine said. “With beluga caviar on toast corners

on the side.”

Casey chuckled. “The fish eggs aren’t a problem, but catching the bird and

plucking it may take Walter a little time.”

“Bacon and eggs would satisfy this old man’s hunger,” Torine said.

“Walter makes his own corned beef hash,” Casey said.

“Even better,” Torine said.

“Me, too, please,” Castillo said.

“Make it three, please,” McGuire said.

“Where’s that nice kid and the cop?” Casey asked.

“The former went to get the latter,” Castillo said.

“You never told me about the cop,” Casey said.

“He’s been embedded with us,” Castillo said.

“You don’t seem to be very happy about that.”

“I’m not. But Lorimer has him under control.”

Sergeant Mullroney, wearing a coat and tie, came out of the house, followed

by Lorimer. Lorimer pointed to one of the chairs at the table. Mullroney fol-

lowed the orders and sat down.

“Good morning, Sergeant Mullroney,” Castillo said. “We’re about to have

corned beef hash and eggs. Sound all right to you?”

Mullroney smiled wanly and nodded.

“I see what you mean,” McGuire said.

Casey smiled at him, then announced: “I just talked to the guys in the

hangar. The new gear is up and running in your airplane. And Signature Flight

Support has finished doing whatever they had to do to the G-Three.”

“Great!” Torine said. “Thanks, Frank.”

“I suppose that means you’re not going to hang around for a day, a couple

of days? Take in a couple of the shows?”

“We’ll have to take a rain check, Frank,” Castillo said.

“Yeah, I figured. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Now that you mention it . . .”

Casey made a Give it to me gesture.

“To get this guy back, we’re going to need a team,” Castillo said. “Maybe

more than one. But at least one. And choppers to move them around. Chop-

pers equipped with both a good GPS and one of your wonderful radios.”

“Well, now that they’ve started giving the 160th what they need,” Casey

said, “they’ve got pretty good GPS equipment—”

1 5 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“What’s the 160th?” Mullroney interrupted.

“I’ll tell you when you can ask questions, Charley,” Lorimer said.

“The 160th is the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Mull -

roney,” Castillo said, and turned to Casey. “But the problem there is I can’t use

their helicopters.”

“Why not?” Lorimer asked.

“I’ll tell you when you can ask questions, Lieutenant,” Castillo said seriously,

waited for that to register on Lorimer’s face, then smiled. “Hold the questions,

Eddie, until your leader is finished.”

“Yes, sir.”

“The 160th has all the latest equipment,” Castillo said. “Which we would

have trouble getting into Paraguay and/or Argentina—just physically getting

them down there—and even if we could do that, they would stick out like sore

thumbs. We’re going to have to do this black.”

Castillo saw that Mullroney had opened his mouth as if to ask a question

and then after a quick glance at Lorimer had changed his mind.

“Black means secretly, covertly, Mullroney. Nobody knows about it,”

Castillo explained. “Which means we’re going to have to use Hueys.”

“Where are you going to get Hueys?” Torine asked. “And how are you going

to get them down there black?”

“Moving right along,” Castillo said. “While I am figuring out where to get

Hueys, and how to get them down there black, I thought I would send Munz,

Lorimer, and Mullroney down there right away—”

“I guess I don’t get to go?” McGuire interrupted.

“Tom, you’ll be more useful in Washington,” Castillo said.

“I guess,” McGuire said, sounding disappointed.

“But keep your bag packed,” Castillo said. He went on: “And on the airplane,

if I can keep abusing Frank’s generosity, there will be two—preferably three—

ground versions of the radios. There’s two—old models—down there already,

and we’re going to need at least two more in Paraguay. Plus, I just thought, op-

erators for same. You’ll probably have to stop by Bragg to pick them up, Jake.”

“Not a problem,” Torine said.

“The ones you have in South America still working?” Casey asked.

“You heard me talk to Argentina yesterday,” Castillo said.

Casey nodded, then offered, “I think there’s a half-dozen new models wait -

ing to be shipped to Delta, to General McNab, at Bragg—”

“Think about that, Frank,” Castillo said, stopping him. “Maybe there’s

only three waiting to be shipped to General McNab. The other three have mys-

teriously disappeared. If that was the case, I won’t have to get on my knees and

beg him for any.”





“If he finds out, he’s not going to be happy.”

“I devoutly hope he never finds out,” Castillo said. “But a bird in hand is

worth two in the bush.” He looked at Lorimer. “You may want to write that

down, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorimer said, and took a notebook from his pocket and started

writing in it.

Torine and McGuire shook their heads. Mullroney appeared to be


Casey chuckled and said, “It’ll take me a couple of days to come up with—

what did you say, four?—sets of GPS and that many aviation radios, maybe a

little longer for them.”

“All contributions gratefully—”

“Yeah, yeah,” Casey interrupted impatiently.

He took a cellular from his pocket and pushed a speed-dial key.

“Casey,” he announced into it. “There’s a half-dozen Model 3405s waiting

to be shipped to Bragg. Put three of them in the Gulfstream in the hangar.”

Then he hung up.

“What are you going to do about the ambassador?” McGuire asked.

“Try to hide from the one in Washington,” Castillo replied, “and put the

one in Mississippi on hold. What I have to do now is get to Washington.”

Mullroney’s face showed that he was trying hard to make sense of what had

been said and not having much success.


Double-Bar-C Ranch

Near Midland, Texas

1225 3 September 2005

As Torine lined up with the runway, Castillo saw there was a Bombardier/Lear-

jet 45XR parked beside the horse-head oil pump.

“Look who’s here,” Castillo said.

“Put the wheels down, First Officer,” Torine said. “We can chat later.”

Doña Alicia Castillo was again waiting for them, this time beside a Chevrolet

Suburban, and this time a heavyset, almost massive dark-skinned man was

with her.

Castillo came down the stair door first. He went to his grandmother and

kissed her.

1 6 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Nice landing, gringo,” the large man said. “Jake must have been flying.”

Castillo gave him the finger.

Fernando Manuel Lopez and Carlos Guillermo Castillo thought of them-

selves as brothers—they had been raised together since puberty—but they were

in fact first cousins.

“Are you on parole, or are Maria and the rug rats here, too?” Castillo asked.

Doña Alicia shook her head at both of them.

“Now stop it, the both of you, right now,” she ordered.

Lopez answered the question anyway.

“They’re in Cancún,” he said. “Taking a pre-going-back-to-school


“You are going to have lunch,” Doña Alicia said. “That’s in the nature of a

statement, not an invitation.”

“Nevertheless, I gratefully accept, Abuela,” Castillo said.

“Eddie,” Castillo ordered, “why don’t you take Sergeant Mullroney for a walk?”

Lorimer made a Get up, let’s go gesture to Mullroney, who stood up and fol-

lowed Lorimer off the verandah where lunch had been served.

“Presumably, you think you have a good excuse for that discourtesy,” Doña

Alicia said when they were out of earshot.

“There are some things we have to discuss that are none of his business,”

Castillo said.

“Then why is he here with you?” she demanded. Before Castillo could reply,

she said, “I just saw on Colonel Torine’s face that he thinks I’m wrong.

Sorry, Carlos.”

“I’m the one who should be . . . is . . . sorry for involving you in the first

place,” Castillo said. “If I could have thought of someplace else to take Munz’s

family, believe me, I would have.”

She looked at him for a moment. “Thank you, Carlos.”

“For what?”

“For bringing them here. And for not reminding me you tried very hard to

keep me from coming here.”

He didn’t reply.

“What do we have to discuss?” she asked after a moment.

“We’re all . . . Colonel Munz, Tom McGuire, and me . . . agreed that there’s

no longer a threat here to Señora Munz and the girls.”

“Well, that’s good news! Thank God for that.”

“So Tom’s going to call off the Secret Service,” Castillo said. “Which then


1 6 1

raises the question what to do with them for the next two, three weeks, how-

ever long it takes to be sure they can safely return to Argentina.”

“Why, they’ll stay here, of course,” she said. “Where else would they go?”

“I hate to ask you to stay with them,” Castillo said.

“Don’t be silly, Carlos,” she said. “I enjoy being with them.” She paused.

“But . . . Mr. McGuire?”

“Ma’am, could I get you to call me ‘Tom’?”

To m , if they would be safe here, would they be safe in San Antonio?”

McGuire considered the question before replying.

“At your home there, you mean?”

She nodded.

“No,” Castillo said.

“Actually, Charley, that might be a better solution than leaving them here,”

McGuire said. “Ma’am, would having a driver for your car raise any eyebrows?”

“Abuela usually has a driver when she goes out at night,” Fernando Lopez

said. “What are you thinking, Tom?”

“That, to err on the side of caution, instead of just canceling the protection

detail, I have it cut from what we have here now . . . twelve, probably?”

“So Mr. Alvarez told me,” Doña Alicia said.

“If it’s been a twelve-man detail,” McGuire said, “that means there were at

any given moment three agents on the job, which means that nine agents were

lying around the swimming pool at the local motel, or drinking coffee in the

snack bar, with people starting to wonder aloud who were all these guys in suits

with guns and Yukons.”

McGuire looked at Castillo.

“And we’re agreed, Charley, that the threat is almost certainly gone, right?”

Castillo nodded reluctantly.

“So we call off the detail here completely, and we set up a three-man detail

in San Antonio. Which means one will be available at all times to do the job

when necessary—whenever they leave the house, in other words, they have an

agent with them. If we call off the detail here, that means no agents, period.

And Alvarez can have a word with the San Antonio cops to keep their eyes open.

What’s wrong with that, Charley?”

Doña Alicia did not give him a chance to answer.

“That’s what we’ll do,” she said. “And I’ll have a little party or two for the

girls, so they can meet people their own age. They’re already bored being here,

and I can’t say that I blame them.”

“I think we should leave it up to Munz,” Castillo said.

“I think we should, too, Chief,” McGuire said. “Want to know why?”

1 6 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N


“Alfredo has a lot of protection experience. Like I do. Who do you think

he’s going to agree with, you or me?”

“I guess we’ll have to see,” Castillo said, a little lamely.

“Carlos, I suppose it’s important that Colonel Munz go to South America

right away?” Doña Alicia asked.

“I’m afraid so, Abuela. And that means right now. I’m sitting here won-

dering if I can work up the courage to tell him it’s time to go.”

“I’ll go get him,” Doña Alicia said, and stood up and walked into the house.

Castillo looked at Lopez.

“All right, gringo,” Fernando said, “I’ll ride the right seat down there and

back. But that’s it. And that presumes I can be back before Maria comes back

from Cancún.”

“I didn’t ask, Fernando,” Castillo said.

“You knew if you asked, I’d tell you to go to hell,” Fernando said. “I told

you I’m getting too old to play James Bond with you guys.”

“Fernando going would solve the problem of having to find another pilot,”

Jake Torine said. “All we’re going to do is drop off Munz and the others with

the radios, and come right back. So thanks, Fernando.”

“He should be thanking us for the privilege of flying our airplane,”

Castillo said.

Fernando gave Castillo the finger.

“How do I get back here to pick up the Lear?” Fernando asked.

“Charley,” McGuire asked, “what if I stay here, take your grandmother and

the Munzes to San Antonio, say, tomorrow, and get things set up there? That’d

probably reassure Munz. By the time I have things set up, Jake and Fernando

will be back from Buenos Aires. So you send a plane to pick me up, it brings

Fernando here, and then picks me up in San Antonio? That’d work.”

Castillo considered the suggestion and nodded. “Okay. Then that’s what

we do.”

“God, I feel sorry for them,” Castillo said, nodding discreetly at the wife and

young daughters of Alfredo Munz, who had just watched Munz get into the

Gulfstream III.

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this,” Doña Alicia said, “but you’re the one I

feel sorry for.”


“Everybody has somebody but you.”





“Hey, Abuela. I have you.”

“I’m your grandmother. You share me with Fernando and his family.”

“You’re all I need,” Castillo said.

She would not give up.

“Colonel Munz has his family. Mr. McGuire has his family. Colonel Torine

has his family. You don’t even have a dog.”

“If it will make you happy, I’ll get a dog.”

Now why the hell did I say that?

What the hell would I do with a dog?

The right engine of the Gulfstream began to whine.

Castillo placed his hands gently on Doña Alicia’s arms, kissed her on both

cheeks, and went up the stair door.


7200 West Boulevard Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

2340 3 September 2005

“We’re home, Colonel,” the Secret Service driver of the Yukon said, gently

pushing Castillo’s shoulder.

Castillo’s head jerked up. For a moment he was confused, and then he knew

where he was.

In the front seat of the Yukon, in the basement of the house.

“How long was I out?” he asked.

“You dozed off before we were out of the airport.”

“You ever hear that only people with nothing on their conscience can go to

sleep with no difficulty?”

The Secret Service agent chuckled.

“So what happens now?” Castillo asked.

“There’s my relief,” the Secret Service agent said, pointing to a man walk-

ing up to the Yukon. “I go off at midnight, in twenty minutes.”

Max was walking to one side of the man, and looking at the truck.

“In that case, can I offer you a nightcap?” Castillo offered. “I’m about to

have one. Which I richly deserve. This has been one hell of a day.”

He sensed reluctance on the part of the Secret Service agent.

“If you have moral scruples against Demon Rum, then okay. Otherwise,

consider that an order. I always feel depraved when I drink alone.”

“I could use a little nip.”

1 6 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Then come along.”

Castillo’s door opened as he reached for the handle.

“Good evening, sir,” the Secret Service agent who had walked up to the De-

nali said.

Max effortlessly stood on his rear paws and put his forepaws on Castillo’s legs.

“How are you, pal?” he asked, and scratched Max’s ears.

Max sat down on his haunches.

“I see you’ve made a pal of Max,” Castillo said to the Secret Service agent.

“He’s been meeting every car that’s come in here,” the Secret Service agent

said. “Obviously waiting for you. Until now, he’s just taken a look and gone

back upstairs.”

“I probably smell like hamburger,” Castillo said, and then asked: “You’re

going to be here all night? What did you do wrong?”

The Secret Service agent chuckled.

“Not to go any farther?”

Castillo nodded.

“We bid for the duty. This looked like a much better deal than spending

all night sitting in the truck in the White House parking lot. Seniority counts,

and I won.”

“Well, the only person who can get me out of here tonight is the President,

and I heard on the radio that he’s on the Gulf Coast looking at hurricane dam-

age, so why don’t you find an empty bedroom and catch some sleep?”

“Maybe later, Colonel. Thank you.”

“I have to be at the Nebraska Avenue Complex at eight. Is that going to

screw up your getting relieved?”

“No, sir. If you’re sure about that, I’ll have my relief meet me there.”

“Why don’t you do that?”

He nodded.

The stairway from the garage led into the kitchen, and there was a door from

the kitchen to the living room. When Castillo got close to it, Max brushed past

him and pushed it open. Castillo motioned for the Denali driver to follow

him. When he got inside, he was surprised to see Edgar Delchamps and a some-

what frumpy man Delchamps’s age whom he didn’t recognize. They were sit-

ting in the leather chairs and couch around the battered coffee table, working

on a bottle of Famous Grouse.

“Oh, Edgar, I’m touched,” Castillo said. “You waited up for me!”

Neither man seemed amused.


1 6 5

“We need to talk, Ace,” Delchamps said.

“Will it wait until we get a drink?”

“Yeah, but he’ll have to drink his someplace else,” Delchamps said, then

looked at the Secret Service agent and added, “Nothing personal.”

“Not a problem, sir. And I can pass on the drink.”

“Have the drink,” Castillo ordered.

Not another word was said until Castillo had poured two drinks, given one

to the Secret Service agent, who downed it, then said, “Ah. Thank you, sir. And

good evening, gentlemen.”

He left the living room, closing the door behind him.

“Say hello to Milton Weiss, Ace,” Delchamps said. “He and I go back a

long way.”

When they shook hands, Weiss’s eyes were cold and penetrating. Castillo

was reminded of the first time he’d met Aleksandr Pevsner. He wondered now—

as he had then—whether the look in the eyes was natural, or whether it had

been cultivated.

When you get that look, you know damned well you’re really being examined.

Max walked up to Castillo and rubbed his head against Castillo’s leg.

Castillo scratched Max’s ears and looked at Delchamps.

“And where is the master of this beast?”

“In the Monica Lewinsky Motel,” Delchamps said.


“Okay, Ace,” Delchamps said, tolerating him. “Kocian consulted a canine

gynecologist who confirmed that Mädchen is in the family way. Which came

as no surprise to those of us who watched the happy couple couple happily in

the garden of the safe house for hours at a time.

“Said canine gynecologist offered his professional opinion that the lovers

should now be separated, as Max cannot seem to grasp that his role in the pro-

creation of his species is no longer required, and that Mädchen is very likely

going to take large pieces out of him if he continues to try to force his now un-

wanted attentions on her. How to do that?

“Kocian—having been advised by Miller that your suite in the Monica

Lewinsky is empty but paid for through the end of the month—decided that

he had enough of bucolic suburban life and had Miller take him and Mädchen

to the Mayflower, leaving Max here, his fate to be decided later.”

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo said.

“To answer your unspoken question: Yes, Herr Kocian is being sat upon.

Miller will stay with him until we get the Secret Service in place. Have you any

further questions, Colonel, or can we get on with this?”

1 6 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Get on with what?”

“Please tell Milton what steps you have taken vis-à-vis your little problem

in Paraguay.”

“I don’t know who the hell Milton is.”

“Trust me, Ace,” Delchamps said sarcastically. “Milton Weiss is not a mem-

ber of the drug mafia.”

Castillo almost said, So what? but stopped. Instead, he asked, “Why?”

“Before you begin to apply damage control, Ace, it is convenient to know

the extent of the damage.”

Castillo looked at Delchamps but didn’t say anything.

“Trust me, Charley,” Delchamps said, this time very seriously.

If I don’t go along with him now, he’s entirely capable of telling me to go fuck

myself, get up, and walk out of here and the OOA.

And I can’t afford to lose him.

“Lorimer says,” Castillo began, “and I think he’s right, that they have Tim-

mons in the sticks—on an estancia of some kind—in either Paraguay or across

the river in Argentina. Not far from Asunción, in other words. Someplace we

can’t easily—if at all—get to on the ground without being spotted.

“So the problem is, one, to find out where he is, and, two, to stage an op-

eration to get him back.

“One, I hope, isn’t going to be much of a problem. A very competent agency

guy is already in Asunción—”

“You mean the station chief?” Weiss interrupted.

“No, I mean a guy who works for me. The station chief in Asunción is

apparently . . . intellectually challenged. The guy I’m talking about knows his


Weiss nodded.

Castillo went on, “My guy is there—the phrase he used was ‘To make sure

the cork is back in the bottle’—because a very bright young DIA guy in Asun-

ción pretty much figured out another operation we ran down there, and my guy

went to Asunción on his own, to make sure nobody else in the embassy talks

too much. My guy—”

“Milton and Alex Darby are old pals, Charley,” Delchamps said.

Weiss nodded, and there was the hint of a smile on his lips.

Is he laughing at me?

Darby will learn in about nine hours, maybe ten, about this new mission.”

“How?” Weiss asked softly.

“From a . . .”

Oh, to hell with it!


1 6 7

“From a man named Munz, who used to run SIDE and who now works

for me—”

“Good man, Milt,” Delchamps said softly.

“—and is now on his way to Asunción on our airplane. The airplane is also

carrying radios—ours, with some incredible capabilities—”

“The ones you get from AFC?” Weiss asked.

Did this guy already know about the radios?

Or did Delchamps tell him?

Castillo nodded. “Which, with a little bit of luck, they’ll be able to get into

Paraguay. And with a little more luck, Munz and Darby will be able to get up

and running.

“The fallback plan there is that if they can’t smuggle the radios into Para-

guay, Munz will arrange to see that we can get them into Argentina, and from

there into Paraguay. And one of my sergeants—who can get the radio, radios,

up and running—will be on the first plane to Asunción tomorrow morning.

That’s if he couldn’t get on the last plane today. And two Delta Force commu-

nicators were supposed to be on the 1130 Aerolíneas flight from Miami to

Buenos Aires tonight. They’re going as tourists, with orders to report to a cer-

tain lady at our embassy. . . .”

“Susanna isn’t what comes to mind when one hears the phrase ‘clandestine

service,’ is she?” Weiss said, smiling.

I don’t think Delchamps told him about Susanna Sieno. And if I’m right, that

means he knows a hell of a lot about what’s going on down there.

Who is this guy?

“Cutting this short, if Alex Darby and Munz are half as good as I think they

are, finding out where these bastards have Timmons won’t take nearly as long

as setting up the operation to get him back will take.”

“Tell Milton how you plan to do that,” Delchamps said.

“The only way to do that is with helicopters,” Castillo said. “And the prob-

lem there is that we’re going to have to use Hueys. Nobody in Argentina or

Paraguay has Apaches or Black Hawks or Little Birds. The problem there is

where to get the Hueys, and crews for them. I don’t want to use active-duty

Army pilots if I don’t have to; same thing with the technical people.

“There used to be a long list of unemployed Huey drivers hanging around

China Post . . .”

Castillo stopped and looked at Weiss to make sure he understood what he

was talking about. Weiss nodded, just perceptibly, signaling he knew that China

Post No. 1 (In Exile) of the American Legion, in addition to providing the ca-

maraderie and other benefits of any Legion Post, also served as sort of an em-

1 6 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

ployment agency for retired special operators of the various branches of


“. . . but when I called there, a friend of mine said most of them are now

either back in the service, or working for Blackwater or people like that, or the

agency. He’s trying to find me some chopper drivers, etcetera, but that may take

some time, if it works at all.

“And then, presuming I can pull that rabbit magically from the hat, that

leaves the problem of getting the aircraft and the people into Argentina black.

“Taking first things first, I’m going to Fort Rucker right after the briefing


“What briefing?” Weiss asked.

“Montvale is gathering all the experts in his empire to give me everything

they have on what’s going on down there.”

Weiss nodded. “And you’re going to do what at Fort Rucker?”

“They have some Hueys. Montvale is going to have somebody from the sec-

retary of Defense’s office call down there and tell them to give me whatever I

ask for, and not to ask questions. I’m going to see what’s available and what

shape it’s in. And then I’m going to borrow an airplane and go see Ambassador

Lorimer, who lost his house to Hurricane Katrina and wants to move to Estancia

Shangri-La until he can get a new house in New Orleans. I’ve got to talk him

out of that.”

“I hadn’t heard about that,” Delchamps said.

“What are you going to do about shooters?” Weiss asked.

Castillo was surprised at first at Weiss’s use of the term. Few people outside

the special operations community used the politically incorrect term to de-

scribe special operators whose mission was likely to require the use of

deadly force.

What the hell, he seems to know about everything else.

“My friend at China Post told me I just about wiped out the list of avail-

able shooters when I hired them to protect the Mastersons,” Castillo said. “That

assignment’s just about over, but those guys are all getting a little long in the

tooth, so I’m probably going to have to get my shooters from Delta at Fort

Bragg. I already gave General McNab a heads-up.”

“That’s about it?” Weiss said.

“I probably could have gotten more done if I hadn’t spent all that time play-

ing the slots in Vegas,” Castillo said.

Weiss smiled.

“You’re right, Ed,” he said. “He is a wiseass, but he’s also good. Very good.”

“Am I supposed to blush at the compliment?” Castillo challenged.


1 6 9

“The station chief in Asunción is not intellectually challenged, Colonel,”

Weiss said.

“That’s not my information,” Castillo said. “If he’s a friend of yours, I’m


“Jonathon Crawford’s a very good friend of mine, actually,” Weiss

said. “And for that reason I was delighted to hear your unflattering opinion

of him.”

Castillo looked at him in confusion, then threw both hands up to signal he

didn’t understand.

Weiss explained: “If you—and more important, Alex Darby—didn’t see

through the image Jonathon has painted of himself as a mediocrity sent to an

unimportant backwater post to keep him from causing trouble working beyond

his limited ability somewhere important, then perhaps that very important de-

ception is working.”

Castillo looked at Delchamps.

“This is where you tell me what’s going on here, Ed.”

“We’ve got your attention now, do we, Ace?” He looked at Weiss. “Okay.

Where do I start? You want to do this?”

“You do it. I don’t think the colonel trusts me.”

Delchamps nodded, looked thoughtful for a moment, then said: “When I

was bringing you up to speed on the Cold War dinosaurs, Ace, I may have led

you to believe that we all came out of Europe. Not so. There is a subspecies,

Latin American, which is held with just about the same degree of suspicion and

contempt by many people in Langley as are those of us who worked Berlin, Vi-

enna, Budapest, and points east. Milton here is one of these. Fair, Milton?”

“Actually, I think of myself more as a chasmatosaurus, rather than a di-

nosaur, but close enough.”

“As a what?” Castillo asked.

“The chasmatosaurus was a crocodilelike meateater from the Triassic pe-

riod , ” Weiss said. “Generally acknowledged to be far more lethal than the di-

nosaur, the proof being that their descendants are still eating dogs and the

occasional child in Florida, Australia, and other places, whereas the dinosaurs

are no longer with us.”

“Whatever the paleontological distinction,” Delchamps said, smiling at the

look on Castillo’s face, “these people recognize each other as noble persons fac-

ing extinction at the hands of the politically correct members of what is laugh-

ingly known as the ‘Intelligence Community.’

“Such was the case when Milton saw me rooting about in the South Amer-

ican files in Langley. He suggested that we have a drink for auld lang syne. And

1 7 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

on the fourth drink, he idly inquired what I was looking for. Knowing him as

well as I do, I asked him why he wanted to know.

“He said it had come to his attention that I had been in the Southern Cone,

and he wanted to know what I could tell him to confirm or deny a credible

rumor that Major Alejandro Vincenzo of the Cuban Dirección General de

Inteligencia—dressed up as a Ninja at an estancia in Uruguay called Shangri-

La—had been whacked by a bunch of special operators operating under a Pres-

idential Finding.”

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo exclaimed softly.

“I asked him where he had heard this rumor, and he told me from his pal

Crawford, and one thing led to another, and he told me why he was interested,

and I told him what we have been up to in Gaucho Land.”

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo said again.

“I suppose you are aware, Colonel,” Weiss said, “that you would not win

any popularity contests held in Langley?”

Castillo nodded. “So I have been led to believe.”

“If I were to tell you that you are a burr under the saddle blankets of two

distinct groups of people over there, would that come as a shock to you?”

“Two distinct groups?”

“Group One, as I suspect you know, is composed of those annoyed because

you (a) found that stolen 727 they couldn’t, thereby splattering a good deal of

egg on the agency’s face, and (b) you—the Office of Organizational Analysis—

is operating under the authority of that Presidential Finding, which among

other things has seen Ambassador Montvale give this dinosaur”—he pointed

at Delchamps—“blanket access to anything he wants at Langley.

“Group Two—which, as hard as you may find this to believe, I don’t think

you know about—is a bunch of good guys who are running an important op-

eration they feel you are about to fuck up by the numbers while trying to get

this DEA agent back.”

“What kind of an important operation? And why hasn’t Montvale told me

about it?”

“Montvale doesn’t know about it,” Weiss said. “He’s almost as unpopular

over there as you are. For a number of reasons, the most obvious being that he’s

now over the agency. The DCI isn’t even number two; just one more subordi-

nate chief of agency, like the heads of DIA and DEA.”

“What’s this important operation?”

“How much do you know about the drug trade?” Weiss asked.

“Virtually nothing,” Castillo admitted.

“Okay. Basic Drugs 101. The agency estimates—and this sort of thing


1 7 1

is what the agency is really good at—Afghanistan will have half a million

acres devoted to the growing of Papaver somniferum L. , or the poppy. Opium

is obtained from the unripe poppy seed pods, and then converted to heroin.

Afghanistan grows more than ninety percent of poppies used in the heroin

drug trade.

“Most of the other eight or nine percent is grown—and converted to

heroin—in Colombia and Bolivia. This is sold, primarily, in the East Coast cities

here. Most of the stuff consumed in Hollywood and other temples of culture

on the West Coast is grown and processed in Mexico, and is not nearly as pure

as what’s sold on the East Coast.

“Quality, as well as supply and demand, determines price. Will you take my

word for it, Colonel, that there’s a hell of a lot of money being spent on heroin

on the East Coast?”

Castillo nodded.

“One—I guess several—of the good guys I mentioned before took a close

look at the business and came up with several questions. Some were pretty ob-

vious. Why are the heroin people in Bolivia sending their product south, into

Paraguay and then Argentina, when the market’s in New York City, in the

other direction?

“The Colombians send most of their product into Mexico. The Mexicans

don’t seem to be able to stop much—if any—of that traffic. It has been sug-

gested that the authorities have been bought. But whatever the reason, getting

their product into Mexico and then across the border into the United States

doesn’t seem to pose much of a problem. Possibly because our overworked Cus-

toms and Border Protection people working the border-crossing points just

can’t inspect more than a tiny fraction of the thousands of eighteen-wheelers

coming into the country every day.

“Or an even smaller fraction of the cars of the tourists returning home from

a happy holiday south of the border. You have that picture, Colonel?”

“Ed calls me Charley, Mr. Weiss.”

“I thought he called you Ace? You don’t like being called colonel, Colonel?”

“Not the way you pronounce it.”

“That’s probably because I’m having trouble thinking of you as a colonel;

you don’t look old enough to be a colonel. When Ed and I were running around

together, the colonels we dealt with had gray hair—if they had hair at all—and

paunches. No offense was intended.”

“You won’t mind, right, Milton, if I don’t believe that?”

“You are a feisty youngster, aren’t you? Aren’t you, Charley?”

“Better, Milton. Better.”

1 7 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Getting back to the subject at hand, Charley. On the other hand, Ar-

gentina does have a working drug-interdiction program. They even have a re-

markably honest—honest by South American standards—police organization

called the Gendarmería Nacional.

“So why run the greater risk?

“Looking into it further, the good guys learned a little more about the flow

of drugs through Argentina and into the U.S., and the manner of doing busi-

ness. Normally—you’ve seen the movies—it’s a cash business. The farmers sell

the raw material—that stuff that oozes out of the poppy seed pods—to the

refiners. They don’t get much for it, but they get paid in cash. Next step, nor-

mally, is for the refiners to either sell what is now heroin to someone who shows

up at the refinery and carries it off. That is also a cash transaction. Or they take

it someplace away from the refinery and sell it there. That’s where you see those

briefcases full of money in the movies.

“Every time the product changes hands, in other words, so does cash.


“This didn’t seem to be happening with the drugs coming out of Paraguay

into Argentina, either when it arrived from the refiners, or when the movers got

it into Argentina, or when it left Argentina. The first time money changed

hands was when the movers had it in the States and turned it over to the whole-

salers. Then we had the briefcases full of hundred-dollar bills.

“So what could be inferred from this? That it was being operated in what

the Harvard School of Business Administration would call a vertically inte-

grated manner. The whole process—from initial receipt of the product from the

refiner, through the movement to Uruguay, to Argentina, to the United States

and the sale there—was under one roof.

“The refiners, the movers, the smugglers, and the transporters, rather than

being independent businessmen, were all employees.”

“What’s the purpose of that? What difference does it make?” Castillo asked.

Weiss held up his hand, signaling he didn’t want to be interrupted.

“Another problem businessmen involved in this trade have is what to do

with the money once they have sold the product. It cannot be dropped into an

ATM machine, for obvious reasons. And, to get it into one of those offshore

banks we hear so much about, it has to be transferred through a bank; no cash

deposits allowed.

“Unless, of course, the bank is also in the vertically integrated system.”

“You mean they own the bank?”

Weiss nodded.

“And that raised the question, among many others, in the good guys’ minds,


1 7 3

‘Where did all this come from?’ Drug dealers are smart, ruthless, and enter-

prising, but very few of them have passed through Cambridge and learned to

sing ‘On, Fair Harvard!’

“That suggested something very interesting,” Weiss went on, “that it was

not a group of Colombian thugs with gold chains around their necks who were

running this operation, but some very clever people who may indeed have gone

to Harvard and were employed by their government. Two governments came

immediately to mind.”


“The Democratic People’s Republic of Cuba and the Russian Federation.”

“Jesus H. Christ!”

“Another thing needed to run this operation smoothly, Charley,” Delchamps

said, “is discipline. The employees—especially the local hires—had to com-

pletely understand that any hanky-panky would get them, and their fami-

lies, whacked.”

“Lorimer told me that Timmons’s driver—”

“Timmons?” Weiss interrupted.

Just as Weiss had a moment before, Castillo held up his hand imperiously,

signaling he didn’t want to be interrupted.

Delchamps chuckled, and Weiss, smiling, shook his head.

“—was garroted,” Castillo finished, “with a metal garrote.”

“Interesting!” Weiss said. “Stasi?”

“And that might explain what Major Vincenzo and the others were doing

at Shangri-La,” Castillo said. “Maybe he didn’t come from Cuba for that. Maybe

he—and the others—were already in Paraguay.”

“And,” Delchamps added, “since Lorimer wasn’t involved with drugs—they

wanted to shut his mouth about what he knew of the oil-for-food scam—and

Vincenzo was, that suggests there’s a connection. Somebody who wanted

Lorimer dead was able to order Vincenzo and company to do it.”

“And we have the two dead FSB lieutenant colonels,” Castillo said.

“Ed somehow neglected to mention two dead FSB officers,” Weiss said.

“I didn’t think you needed to know,” Delchamps said.

Weiss rolled his eyes.

“Who were they?”

“One of the colonel’s crack pistol marksmen, a chap named Bradley,”

Delchamps said with a straight face, “took down Yevgeny Komogorov—”

“Of the FSB’s Service for the Protection of the Constitutional System and

the Fight Against Terrorism?” Weiss asked drily.

Delchamps nodded as he went on: “—in the Sheraton Hotel garage in

1 7 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Pilar, outside Buenos Aires. Colonel Komogorov was at the time apparently bent

on whacking a fellow Russian by the name of Aleksandr Pevsner—”

“Pevsner?” Weiss asked, incredulously.

With an even more imperious gesture than Castillo had given, Delchamps

held up his hand to signal he didn’t want to be interrupted.

Castillo laughed.

Delchamps went on: “—when Bradley put a .45 round in his cheek”—he

pointed to a spot immediately below his left eye—“and then Lieutenant Colonel

Viktor Zhdankov was found beaten to death in the Conrad Casino and Resort

in Punta del Este.”

Weiss’s face showed surprise, and perhaps revulsion.

“Not by us, Milton,” Delchamps said. “Do I have to tell you that?”

“By who?”

“He was found in the company of a man named Howard Kennedy, who

also had been beaten to death. There’s a rumor going around that Kennedy

was foolish enough to have tried to arrange the whacking of his employer,

Mr. Pevsner.”

“Either one of them could have been running Vincenzo,” Castillo said


Weiss considered that, then nodded.

“All of this seems to fit very nicely together,” Weiss said. “But the bottom

line is that nothing is going to be done about it. The Cubans—if they said any-

thing at all—would say that Vincenzo hasn’t been in the Dirección General de

Inteligencia for years. The Russians will say they never heard of either Zhdan-

kov or Komogorov.”

“What’s your point?” Castillo asked.

“The name of the game is to make the other guys hurt,” Weiss said.

“Okay. But so what?” Castillo said.

“Let me return to Basic Drugs 101,” Weiss said, “since bringing these bad

guys before the bar of justice just isn’t going to happen. Neither of you has any

idea what happens to the heroin once it gets to Argentina, do you?”

Delchamps and Castillo shook their heads.

“The intellectually challenged station chief in Asunción has figured that

out,” Weiss said. “Has either of you ever wondered how many filet mignon

steaks are in the coolers of a cruise ship like, for example, the Holiday Spirit of

the Southern Cruise Line? I’ll give you a little clue. She carries 2,680 passen-

gers, and a crew of some twelve hundred.”

“A lot, Milton?” Delchamps asked innocently.

“Since she makes twelve-day cruises out of Miami about the sunny


1 7 5

Caribbean, each of which features two steak nights, and filet mignon is an ever-

present option on her luncheon and dinner menus, yeah, Edgar, ‘a lot.’

“And has either of you ever wondered where they get all this meat—or the

grapefruits and oranges from which is squeezed the fresh juice for the 2,680

breakfasts served each day, etcetera, etcetera?”

“Argentina?” Castillo asked innocently.

“You win the cement bicycle, Charley,” Weiss said. “And have either of you

ever wondered how all those filet mignons make their way from the Argentine

pampas to the coolers of the Holiday Spirit and her many sister ships?”

Castillo and Delchamps waited for him to go on.

“I left out the succulent oysters, lobsters, and other fruits of the sea sent from

the chilly Chilean South Pacific seas to the coolers of the Holiday Spirit and her

sister ships,” Weiss said.

“You’re forgiven,” Delchamps said. “Get on with it.”

“Air freight!” Weiss said. “Large aircraft—some of them owned by Aleksandr

Pevsner, by the way—make frequent, sometimes daily flights from Buenos Aires

to Jamaica loaded with chilled but not frozen meat and other victuals for the

cruise ship trade.”

“Jesus!” Castillo said, sensing where Weiss was headed.

“We all know how wonderful Argentine beef is, and how cheap. And most

cruise ships—just about all of the Southern Cruise Line ships, and there are four

of these, the smallest capable of carrying eleven hundred passengers—call at

Montego Bay or Kingston, or both, on each and every voyage. Kingston is

served by Norman Manley International Airfield, and Montego Bay by Sang-

ster International.

“While the happy tourists—is there a word for the people who ride these

floating hotels? Cruisers, maybe?—are wandering through the picturesque

streets of Kingston and Montego Bay, soaking up culture and taking pictures

for the folks back home, the hardworking Jamaican gnomes are moving loins

of Argentine beef from refrigerator plants, and occasionally—if yesterday’s flight

from Buenos Aires was delayed for some reason—directly from the airplane to

the coolers on the cruise ships.”

“And under the ice is that day’s shipment of heroin,” Delchamps said.

“Edgar, you’ve always been just terrible about thinking such awful things

are going on,” Weiss said, mock innocently.

“And how do they get it off the ship in the States?” Castillo asked.

“There are several ways to do that,” Weiss said. “One is with the ship’s

garbage and sewage, which now has to be brought ashore, rather than as be-

fore, when it was tossed overboard, thereby polluting the pristine waters of the

1 7 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Atlantic. Or, in the wee hours of the morn, as the vessel approaches Miami, it

is dumped over the side, to be retrieved later by sportfishermen. Global Posi-

tioning System satellites are very helpful to the retrievers.”

“And where is the DEA, or the Coast Guard, or whoever is supposed to be

dealing with this sort of thing while all this is going on?” Castillo asked.

“So far they don’t know about it,” Weiss said, and Castillo sensed that sud-

denly Weiss had become dead serious, that his joking attitude had just been shut

off as if a switch had been thrown.

And he made some remark before about Montvale—who was supposed to be on

top of everything going on in the intelligence community—not knowing about an

“important operation.”

What the hell is going on?

Weiss met Castillo’s eyes for a moment, and Castillo was again reminded of

Aleksandr Pevsner.

“And we don’t want them to know about it,” Weiss went on.

“Are you going to tell me about that?” Castillo asked carefully.

“That’s why I’m here, Castillo. I told you, you’re in a position to fuck up

an important operation. But before I get into that, I want you to understand

this conversation never took place.”

“I can’t go along with that.”

“You don’t have any choice,” Weiss said. “I’ll deny it. And so will Del-


“That leaves out the Secret Service guy you ran off,” Castillo said. “He saw

you here.”

“He saw Delchamps and me taking a walk down memory lane. That’s all.

Paraguay and Timmons never came up.”

Castillo looked at Delchamps.

“I gave him my word, Ace. Not for auld lang syne, but because it was the

only way I could get him to come.”

“I’m not giving you my word about anything,” Castillo said. “And that

specifically includes me not going to Montvale and telling him you’re with-

holding intelligence I should have.”

“Before this gets unpleasant, let me tell you about the important operation,”

Weiss said. “The bottom line, Castillo, is that it’ll be your call.”

“Tell me about the operation,” Castillo said.

“There’s a hell of a lot of money involved here,” Weiss said. “A goodly share

of the proceeds go to support the Dirección General de Inteligencia, which

means the FSB doesn’t have to support it as much as it has been. And that’s im-

portant, because the FSB’s ability to fund clandestine operations, Islamic ex-


1 7 7

tremists, etcetera, has been greatly reduced since we went into Iraq and cut off

their oil-for-food income.

“And the DGI is supporting its sister service in the Republic of Venezuela,

which I presume you know is about to become the People’s Democratic Re-

public of Venezuela under Colonel Chávez, whose heroes are Fidel Castro, Josef

Stalin, and Vladimir Putin.

“And the profits left over after the DGI gets what it needs go to the FSB’s

secret kitty, which supports, among other things, all those ex-Stasi and ex-ÁVO

people who are causing trouble all over.

“Another way to put this is that if it wasn’t for all this drug income they’re

getting, the FSB would have its operations seriously curtailed.”

“Then my question is, why don’t you confide in the Coast Guard, the Cus-

toms Service, whoever, what you know about this operation and have them stop

it?” Castillo said.

Then he saw Delchamps shake his head, and then the look on Delchamps’s

face. It said, Not smart, Ace!

“Because,” Weiss said, his face and tone suggesting he was being very

patient with a backward student, “even if they did find a cooler full of coke

on the Holiday Spirit—and their record of finding anything isn’t very good—

all that would happen is that we would add a dozen or so people to our prison


“So what’s the alternative?”

“International Maritime Law provides for the seizure of vessels—including

aircraft—involved in the international illicit drug trade.”

“You want to grab Pevsner’s airplanes?”

“That, too, but what we want to grab is the Holiday Spirit and her

sister ships. Do you have any idea how much one of those floating palaces


Castillo shook his head to admit he didn’t, then asked, “How are you going

to do that?”

“Prove their owners were aware of the purpose to which they had put

their ships.”

“How are you going to that? They’re not registered to Vladimir Putin.”

“They’re registered to a holding company in Panama,” Weiss said. “And

proving that Putin controlled that would be difficult, but that doesn’t matter.

All we have to prove is that the owners knew what was going on; that it was il-

legal. The owners lose the ship. The Holiday Spirit cost a little over three hun-

dred and fifty million.”

“And how are you going to prove the owners knew?”

1 7 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“The operation could not be carried on without the captain being aware of

what was going on.”

“But the captains don’t own their ships, do they?”

“No. But they don’t get command of a ship except from the owners.”


“The FSB was not about to entrust a three-hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar

ship to some stranger. They wanted their own man running things, and they

didn’t want him to come from the Saint Petersburg Masters, Mates, and Pilots

Union because people might start wondering what the Russians were doing

running a cruise ship operation out of Miami.

“So they provided reliable, qualified masters with phony documents saying

they were Latvians, or Estonians, or Poles.”

“That sounds pretty far-fetched.”

“You’re a pilot, right? You just flew a Gulfstream Three to Argentina and

back, right?”

Castillo nodded.

“Anybody ask to see your pilot’s license?”

Castillo shook his head.

“Anybody ever ask to see your pilot’s license?”

Castillo shook his head again.

“You’re flying an eight-, ten-million-dollar airplane, you’re given the bene-

fit of the doubt, right?”


“You bring a three-hundred-and-fifty-million-dollar ship into port, every-

body’s going to say he must be an ‘any tonnage, any ocean’ master mariner,

right? And proved this to the owners—otherwise, they would not have given

him their ship, right?”

Castillo nodded once again.

“We have proof that the master of the Holiday Spirit and four of his offi-

cers gained their nautical experience in the submarine service of the Navy of

the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and are not Latvians, Estonians, or

Poles, or using the names they were born with.

“Now, all we have to do is prove that the owners knew this, and that said

officers were actively involved in the smuggling of controlled substances into

the United States. . . .”

“How are you going to do that?”

“By having people on the Holiday Spirit. Filipino seamen come cheap. Get-

ting them onto the Holiday Spirit took some doing, but they’re in place. And

they have been compiling intel—including pictures of the ship’s officers check-


1 7 9

ing the incoming drugs, and putting them over the side—for some time. When

we’re absolutely sure we have enough to go to the Maritime Court in The Hague,

we’re going to blow the whistle.

“Unless, of course, you go down there and start making waves causing the

system to go on hold. Which would mean we would have to start all over again

from scratch.”

“And you don’t want me to make waves, is that it?”

“It’s a question of priority.”

“The President wants Timmons freed.”

“So I understand.”

“The only person who can call off my operation is the President,” Castillo

said simply. “And I don’t think he will. And talking about waves, if I go to him

with this, and he hears the company is withholding intel like this from Mont-

vale, you’ll have a tsunami.”

“You were listening, I trust, when I told you we never had this conver-


Castillo nodded.

Weiss went on: “Montvale will be pissed on two accounts—first, that

he’s been kept in the dark, and second, that you let the President know

he didn’t know what was going on under his nose. When the company

denies any knowledge of this, where does that leave you with Montvale? Or

the President?”

“You’re suggesting I go down there and go through the motions, but don’t

really try to get Timmons back?”

“I’m not suggesting anything, Colonel,” Weiss said. “But it’s pretty clear to

me that if you go down there and pull a professional operation to get this DEA

guy back, it’s going to tell these people that they have attracted attention they

don’t want. They’ll go in a caution mode, and we don’t want that.”

He stood up and looked at Castillo.

“See you at the briefing tomorrow,” he said. “I’ve been selected to brief you.”

“What you’re suggesting, Weiss, is that I just leave Timmons swinging in

the breeze.”

“People get left swinging in the breeze all the time,” Weiss said. “You know

that as well as I do. I told you before, this is your call. One guy sometimes gets

fucked for the common good.”

Weiss looked at Delchamps.

“Always good to see you, Ed. We’ll have to do lunch or something

real soon.”

And then he walked out of the room.

1 8 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo looked at Delchamps.

“Thanks a lot, Ed.”

“If you want me to, Ace, I’ll go with you to Montvale. Or the President.

Or both.”

Castillo looked at him with a raised eyebrow but didn’t say anything.

“I said I went back a long way with Weiss. That’s not the same thing as

saying I liked him then, or like him now. And I don’t like the smell of his


He paused to let that sink in.

“That being said, I don’t think that Montvale will believe you, or me, and

his first reaction will be to cover his ass.”

“What if there were three witnesses to that fascinating conversation?” Dick

Miller asked, coming into the living room from the den. “I’m a wounded hero.

Would that give me credence?”

“How long have you been in there?” Castillo asked.

“I got back here just as the Secret Service guy got booted out,” Miller said.

“And curiosity overwhelmed me.”

“I still don’t think that Montvale would believe you, me, or the wounded

hero,” Delchamps said, “and that his first reaction would be to cover his ass.”

“So what do I do?”

“You’re asking for my advice, Ace?”

“Humbly seeking same.”

Delchamps nodded and said, “Aside from calling off Jake Torine and Munz,

nothing. Give yourself some time to think it over. Hear what Weiss says at the

briefing tomorrow.”

“You better call off Munz and Torine,” Miller agreed. “I don’t think Darby

and Solez are a problem. They don’t know you’ve been ordered to get Timmons

back. They went to Asunción to shut mouths; that’s to be expected.”

“Let’s hope Aloysius’s radio works,” Castillo said. “I told Torine to go right

to Asunción. They’re probably already over the Caribbean.”

He pushed himself out of his chair, picked up his mostly untouched drink,

and walked to the den.

Max followed him.



7200 West Boulevard Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

0630 4 September 2005

Castillo’s cell phone buzzed, and on the second buzz, he rolled over in bed,

grabbed it, rolled back onto his back, put the phone to his ear, and said,

“You sonofabitch!”

“Good morning, Colonel.”

Castillo recognized the voice as that of his Secret Service driver.

“It may be for you,” Castillo said, “but I have just been licked—on the

mouth—by a half-ton dog.”

“I tried to put my head in your door to wake you, but Max made it pretty

clear he didn’t think that was a good idea.”

“I’ll be right down,” Castillo said, and sat up.

Max was sitting on the floor beside the double bed.

Castillo put his hand on the bed to push himself out of the bed. The

blanket was warm. He looked, and saw that the pillow on the other side was


“Goddamn it, Max, you’re a nice doggie, but you don’t get to sleep

with me.”

Max said, “Arf.”

Castillo pulled open the door to the front passenger seat of the Denali. Max

brushed him aside and leapt effortlessly onto the seat.

“Tell him to get in the back, Dick,” Castillo said.

Major Dick Miller gave Lieutenant Colonel Castillo the finger and bowed

Castillo into the second seat.

There was a muted buzz and the red LED on the telephone base mounted on

the back of the driver’s seat began to flash.

1 8 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo looked at it. The legend DNI montvale moved across the screen.

Castillo picked up the handset.

“Good morning, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Where are you, Charley?”

“We just pulled into a Waffle House for our breakfast.”

“Are you open to a suggestion?”

“Yes, sir, of course.”

“Vis-à-vis the briefing this morning: If I sent Truman Ellsworth, repre-

senting me, and he announced that you were representing Secretary Hall, I

think fewer questions would be raised.”

Truman C. Ellsworth was executive assistant to Montvale. He had worked

for Montvale in a dozen different positions in government over the years. Mont-

vale had tried to send him to work as liaison officer between the office of the

director of National Intelligence and the Office of Organizational Analysis.

Recognizing this as an attempt to plant a spy in his operation, Castillo had

declined the offer, and had to threaten that he would appeal it to the President

to keep Ellsworth out of OOA. For this and other reasons—as Ellsworth seemed

to be personally offended that the OOA did not come under Montvale’s

authority—Castillo knew he was not one of Ellsworth’s favorite people.

His first reaction was suspicion— What’s the bastard up to here? —but

what Montvale was suggesting made sense. The less conspicuous he was, the


“That makes sense, Mr. Ambassador,” Castillo said.

“I think so,” Montvale said, and the connection was broken.

They all ordered country ham and eggs for breakfast. When Castillo was fin-

ished with his, he collected the ham scraps and silver-dollar-sized bone and put

them onto a napkin.

“For the beast?” the Secret Service driver asked, and when Castillo nodded,

added his to the napkin. And then Miller added his. The napkin now was full

to the point of falling apart.

In the Denali, Max sniffed the offering. He then delicately picked up one

of the pieces of bone. There was a brief crunching sound, and then he picked

up another, crunched that, and then picked up the third.

“I wonder,” the Secret Service man asked softly, “how many pounds of

pressure per square inch that took?”

“Try not to think what he would have done to your arm had you tried to

disturb my sleep,” Castillo said.






Office of the Chief

Office of Organizational Analysis

Department of Homeland Security

The Nebraska Avenue Complex

Washington, D.C.

0745 4 September 2005

“Good morning, Chief,” OOA Deputy Chief of Administration Agnes Forbi-

son greeted Castillo. “And hello again, Max. Where’s your sweetheart?”

“That’s right,” Castillo said. “You’ve met Max. Mädchen is in the family way,

and resting at the Motel Monica Lewinsky. It’s a long story . . .”

“What are you going to do with him?”

“I don’t really know,” Castillo admitted. He switched to Hungarian. “Say

hello to the nice lady, Max.”

Max looked at him, then walked to Agnes, sat down, and looked up at her.

Agnes scratched his ears.

“What did you say to him?” she asked.

“I told him you had a pound of raw hamburger in your purse.”

“I don’t, Max,” Agnes said to him. “But if you’re going to be here for long,

I’ll pick some up at lunch.” She looked at Castillo. “Is he? Going to be here

for long?”

Castillo told her how he had come into temporary possession of Max. Agnes

smiled and shook her head.

“Well, maybe he’s just what you need, Chief. Every boy should have a dog.

And it looks to me that he’s not all that upset about getting the boot from his

happy home.”

Max had returned to Castillo and was now sitting beside him, pressing his

head against Castillo’s leg.

“He’s an excellent judge of character,” Castillo said.

“The intelligence community is gathering in the conference room,” Agnes

said. “Is there anything you need besides a cup of coffee before you go in there?”

She put action to her words by going to a coffee service on a credenza be-

hind her desk and getting him a cup of coffee.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Castillo said, and then asked, “What do we hear

from Jake Torine?”

“He called five minutes ago. Over one of those new radios you got in Vegas.”

“What did he have to say?”

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W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“They just took off from Buenos Aires. That translates to mean that he’ll

be in Baltimore in about ten hours.”

“I can’t wait that long,” Castillo said, thoughtfully. “And Jake’ll be beat

when he gets here.”

“Wait that long for what?”

“I have to go to Fort Rucker.”

“You want to go commercial—which may be difficult because of the hur-

ricane—or are you in your usual rush?”

“What’s the other option?” he asked as Dick Miller walked in.

“OOA now has a contract with ExecuJet,” she said, “who promise to pro-

vide service at the airport of your choice within an hour, then transport you to

any airport of your choice within the United States in unparalleled luxury

and comfort.”

“Two questions. Isn’t that ‘unparalleled luxury and comfort’ going to be

painfully expensive? And how do you think—what did you say, ExecuJet?—feels

about dogs?”

“Expensive, yes. But painfully, no. You did hear that there has been a sub-

stantial deposit to our account in the Caymans . . . right at forty-six million?”

Castillo nodded. “Ill-gotten gains about to be spent on noble purposes,” he

said, mockingly solemn.

“You’re taking Max with you?”

“Until I figure out what to do with him. Maybe my grandmother’d take care

of him for me.”

“I don’t think that’s a viable option, Chief,” she said drily.

“And I’ll have to take one of the new radios and our Sergeant Neidermeyer

with me. Dick can work the radio here until we can get some more communi-

cators up here from Bragg.”

“Once more, Colonel, sir,” Dick Miller said. “Your faithful chief of staff is

way ahead of you. We now have four communicators, five counting Sergeant

Neidermeyer. General McNab said to be sure to tell you how much he now

deeply regrets ever having made your acquaintance.”

“I’ll give ExecuJet a heads-up,” Agnes said. “Max won’t be a problem. When

do you want to leave?”

“As soon as whatever happens in there is over,” he said, nodding at the door

to the conference room. “First, I want to hit the commo room.”

There were five young men in the small room off Castillo’s office, which had

been taken over as the commo room. There was something about them that


1 8 5

suggested the military despite their civilian clothing—sports jackets and

slacks—and their “civilian haircuts.”

No one called attention, but the moment Castillo pushed open the door all

of them were on their feet and standing tall.

“Good morning, Jamie,” Castillo said to the young man closest to him, ges-

turing for the men to relax.

“Welcome home, Colonel,” Sergeant James “Jamie” Neidermeyer said.

Neidermeyer, just imported from the Stockade at Bragg to run the OOA

commo room, was a little shorter than Castillo, with wide shoulders, a strong

youthful face, and thoughtful eyes.

“Thank you, Jamie. Unfortunately, I won’t be staying. Got your

bag packed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You don’t have to leave our nation’s capital, of course, Jamie. You could

send one of these guys.”

Castillo put out his hand to the next closest of the young men.

“My name is Castillo.”

“Yes, sir. Sergeant First Class Pollman, Colonel.”

As he repeated the process with the others, Max went to the near corner of

the room and lay down, his eyes on Castillo and the room.

“What do you guys think of our new radios?” Castillo asked.

There was a chorus of “Outstanding, sir!” and “First class, sir!”

“We just talked to Colonel Torine, sir,” Neidermeyer said. “He was five min-

utes out of Buenos Aires.”

“Mrs. Forbison told me,” Castillo said. “I guess Jamie has brought you up

to speed on the new radios? And what we’re doing here?”

Another chorus of “Yes, sir.”

“Anyone got any family problems—girlfriend problems don’t count—with

working with us—here and elsewhere—for a while?”

Another chorus, this time of “No, sir.”

“And everybody is on per diem, right? Which doesn’t look like it’s going to

be enough for Washington?”

This time it was apparent that all of them were reluctant to complain.

“Mrs. Forbison will get you each an American Express credit card,” Castillo

said. “They will be paid by the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund, which

understands the problems of a hardship assignment in Washington. Use them

for everything—meals, your rooms, laundry—everything but whiskey and wild

women. Save your per diem for the whiskey and wild women. There’s a threat

to go along with that: Make any waves that call any attention whatever to

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W . E . B . G R I F F I N

what’s going on here and you will shortly afterward find yourself teaching

would-be Rangers how to eat snakes, rodents, and insects in the semitropical

jungle swamps at Hurlburt. Everybody understand that?”

That produced another chorus, this time with smiles, of “Yes, sir.”

“Okay. I’m glad to have you. I know that Vic D’Alessando wouldn’t have

sent you if you weren’t the best.” He paused to let that sink in, then asked,


“Sir, what kind of a dog is that?”

“Max is a Bouvier des Flandres,” Castillo said. “It has been reliably reported

that one of his ancestors bit off one of Adolf Hitler’s testicles during the first

world war.”

That produced more smiles.

“And you, Sergeant Phillips, are herewith appointed his temporary custo-

dian. I’ve got to go sit around a table with some Washington bureaucrats, and

I don’t think Max would be welcome. Have we got anything we can use as a


Phillips opened a drawer in the table holding the radios and came out with

a coil of wire from which he quickly fashioned a leash.

He handed it to Castillo, who looped it to the D-ring of Max’s collar and

then handed the end of it to Sergeant Phillips.

“Max, you stay,” Castillo said, in Hungarian, and then switched back

to English. “And while I’m gone, Jamie, make up your mind who’s going

with me.”

“Ever willing to make any sacrifice for the common good, Colonel,” Nei-

dermeyer said, “I will take that hardship upon myself.”

“Your call, Jamie.”

“Where we going, sir?” Neidermeyer said. “Buenos Aires?”

“You like Buenos Aires, do you?”

“It is not what I would call a hardship assignment, sir.”

“We’re going to Rucker, Sergeant Neidermeyer. One more proof that a

smart soldier never volunteers for anything.”

Castillo raised his arm in a gesture of So long and walked out of the radio

room and into his office.

Miller was sitting on the edge of his desk.

“They’re waiting for you,” he said, nodding toward the door to the confer-

ence room. “You want me to come along?”

“Please,” Castillo said, and went to the door and opened it.

Truman Ellsworth, a tall, silver-haired, rather elegant man in his fifties, was

standing at a lectern set up at the head of the conference table.


1 8 7

There were a dozen people sitting at the table, which had places for twenty.

There were perhaps twice that number sitting on chairs against the walls, ob-

viously subordinates of the people at the table, and not senior enough to be at

the table.

The only person Castillo recognized was Milton Weiss. He was sitting

near one end of the table, between a man and a woman, obviously the CIA del-


Castillo and Miller took seats halfway down the table across from Weiss,

who looked at Castillo but gave no sign of recognition.

“If I may have your attention, ladies and gentlemen,” Ellsworth said. “Now

that Lieutenant Colonel Castillo, who is the representative of the Department

of Homeland Security, has joined us, we can get this under way.”

You pompous sonofabitch!

Should I have brought a note from my mommy saying why I’m late?

“My name is Truman Ellsworth. Ambassador Montvale had other things on

his plate this morning and sent me to represent him. This is, as I said, an in-

formal meeting, but in view of the sensitive material which may come to light,

a Top Secret security classification is in place, and it is not to be recorded.

“As I understand it,” Ellsworth went on, “the attorney general and the DNI,

Ambassador Montvale, are agreed that there may well be intelligence aspects to

the kidnapping of a DEA agent in Paraguay, and that it behooves us to share,

informally, what information we have which might shed light on the situation.

“May I suggest that the principals identify themselves? Why don’t we work

our way around the table?”

He sat down and nodded to a swarthy man on his right.

“John Walsh, DEA,” the man said.

“Helena Dumbrowsky, State Department,” a somewhat plump, red-haired

woman announced.

“Norman Seacroft, Treasury.” He was a slight, thin man in a baggy suit.

“Milton Weiss, CIA.”

“Colonel K. L. DeBois, DIA.” The representative of the Defense Intelligence

Agency was tall and wiry, and wore his hair clipped almost to the skull.

“C. G. Castillo, Homeland Security.”

“Inspector Bruce Saffery, FBI.” Saffery was a well-tailored man in his

early fifties.

Castillo thought: I wonder if he knows Inspector John J. Doherty?

“Excuse me,” Colonel DeBois said, looking at Castillo and holding up his

index finger. “But didn’t Mr. Ellsworth just refer to you as ‘Lieutenant


1 8 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Ellsworth, you sonofabitch. I’m not wearing a uniform. You didn’t have to refer

to me as an officer.

And why do I think that wasn’t an accident?

“Yes, sir, I believe he did.”

“You’re a serving officer?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And—presuming I’m allowed to ask—what exactly is it you do for the De-

partment of Homeland Security, Colonel?”

“Sir, I’m an executive assistant to the secretary.”

“How much do you know about the Office of Organizational Analysis?”

“Aside from that we’re using their conference room, sir, not much.”

“The reason I’m asking, Colonel, is that I was ordered to transfer one of my

officers, a young lieutenant who was stationed in Asunción, to the Office of

Organizational Analysis.”

Oh, shit! Lorimer!

Castillo glanced at Truman Ellsworth and saw that he was looking at him.

Ellsworth’s face was expressionless, but he was looking.

“His name is First Lieutenant Edmund J. Lorimer,” DeBois pursued.

“I just can’t help you, Colonel,” Castillo said.

This meeting hasn’t even started and I’m already lying through my teeth to a

fellow officer who looks like a nice guy.

“Perhaps you could ask Secretary Hall, Colonel Castillo,” Ellsworth sug-

gested, helpfully.

Oh, you miserable sonofabitch!

“Yes, I suppose I could do that,” Castillo said. “I’ll get back to you, Colonel,

if I’m able to find out anything.”

“I’d appreciate it,” DeBois said. “He’s a nice young officer who lost a leg

from above the knee in Afghanistan. I’ve been sort of keeping an eye on him.”

“I’ll see what I can find out for you, sir, as soon as this meeting is over.”

“I’d really appreciate it, Colonel.”

“Why don’t we start with you, Mr. Walsh?” Ellsworth said. “Exactly what

happened in Asunción?”

Walsh took ten minutes to report in minute detail less than Castillo already

knew. He didn’t mention the garrote with which Timmons’s driver had been

murdered, just that he had been killed, means unspecified. Castillo decided he

either hadn’t been told how the driver had been killed, or had and didn’t un-

derstand the significance.


1 8 9

Without saying so in so many words, Walsh made it clear that he thought

the DEA could get Timmons back by themselves, if certain restrictions on what

they could do were relaxed.

Mrs. Dumbrowsky of the State Department took the same amount of time

to explain the excellent relations enjoyed by the United States with the Republic

of Paraguay, expressed great admiration for the Paraguayan law-enforcement au-

thorities, and made it clear without saying so in so many words that she strongly

felt it would be a diplomatic disaster if a cretin like Walsh was allowed to de-

stroy the aforesaid splendid relationship by going down there guns blazing and

taking the law into his own hands.

Mr. Seacroft of the Treasury Department somewhat jocularly said that while

he wasn’t much of an admirer of anything French, he did think it was hard to

disagree with their criminal investigation philosophy of searching for the money,

and announced that he was going to run everything he had through the com-

puters again and see what came out the other end.

Castillo had glanced at Ellsworth several times during Mr. Seacroft’s dis-

course. Castillo had seen from Ellsworth’s look of utter contempt that he, too,

knew that the French criminal investigation philosophy was Cherchez la

femme—though their seeking of femme meant “women,” not “money.”

Milton Weiss of the CIA said that he had to confess being a little surprised

at the attention the kidnapping of Special Agent Timmons was getting. He

had heard—unofficially, of course—that it was a not-uncommon occurrence—

perhaps even common—and that in the end the drug thugs usually turned the

kidnappee free.

He implied that the agency had far more important things to do than worry

about one DEA agent, who, it could be reasonably assumed, had some idea of

what he was getting himself into when he first became a DEA agent and sub-

sequently went to Paraguay. The CIA would, however, Weiss said, keep its ear

to the ground and promptly inform everybody if it came up with something.

It was Castillo’s turn next.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know nothing about this. I’m just here to listen

and learn.”

And the truth here, if I’m to believe what I’ve heard from these people, is that

I know more about this than anyone else.

Except, of course, Weiss, and he’s lying through his teeth.

Making at least two of us here who are doing that.

Colonel DeBois was next, and he immediately began to prove that he had

come to the meeting prepared to share whatever knowledge the DIA had with

the rest of the intelligence community.

1 9 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“I think I—the DIA—has more knowledge of the situation down there than

maybe we should,” he began. “The background to that is that our people there,

the defense attaché and his assistants, are encouraged to report informally on

matters that come to their attention that are not entirely defense related but

which they feel may be of interest to the DIA.

“Lieutenant Lorimer, to whom I referred earlier, became friends with Spe-

cial Agent Timmons, and from him learned a good deal about the DEA oper-

ations there, which Lorimer passed on to us. Timmons may well have crossed

the ‘need to know’ line there, telling Lorimer what he did, but I think that area’s

a little fuzzy. If we’re here to share intelligence, what’s really wrong with our peo-

ple in the field doing the same thing?”

“It’s against the law, for one thing,” Milton Weiss said.

“Oh, come on, Weiss,” John Walsh of the DEA said. “They all do it, and

we all know they do it, and you know as well as I do that there’s nothing really

wrong with it.”

Good for you, Walsh. I think I like you.

“If I’m getting into something here that perhaps I shouldn’t?” DeBois said.

“Whatever you heard from your people couldn’t really be called reliable in-

telligence, could it?” Ellsworth said. “It would be, in legal terms, ‘hearsay,’

would it not?”

“I’d like to hear the hearsay,” Castillo said.

Ellsworth flashed Castillo an icy look.

Is that because he doesn’t like me challenging him?

Or because he doesn’t want DeBois to report what Lorimer told him?

“Please go on, sir,” Castillo said.

“I thought you were chairing this meeting, Mr. Ellsworth?” Weiss de-


“We’re supposed to be sharing intel, so let’s share it,” Castillo said.

Careful, Charley, you don’t want to lose your temper.

After a moment’s hesitation, Ellsworth said, “I think if Colonel Castillo

wants to hear what Colonel DeBois has to say, then we should. With my caveat

that it really is hearsay.”

“Actually, rather than hard intelligence,” DeBois said, “what Lieutenant

Lorimer provided might be called background—his informal assessment of the

problems down there, his own opinions, plus what he heard from Special Agent

Timmons and others.”

“Why don’t you get on with it, Colonel?” Weiss said impatiently. “So the

rest of us can get out of here?”

“Very well,” DeBois said. “Lorimer reported that Timmons said, and he


1 9 1

agreed, that the drug operations in Paraguay are more sophisticated than might

be expected.”

“Sophisticated?” Weiss parroted incredulously.

“The drug people in Paraguay seemed to be taking unusual steps to keep

from calling attention to themselves,” DeBois said.

“I thought all drug dealers did that,” Weiss said.

“If you keep interrupting Colonel DeBois, Mr. Weiss,” Castillo said, “we’ll

all be here a long time. Why not let him finish, and then offer your comments

all at once?”

Colonel DeBois looked at Castillo gratefully, then went on: “According to

Lorimer, Timmons said they had sort of a system, a sophisticated system, of deal-

ing with the Paraguayan authorities. A system of rewards and punishment.”

“I’d like to hear about that,” Walsh said. “This is all news to me.”

“For one example, people approach the children of Paraguayan police on

their way home from school. They give them envelopes to give to their moth-

ers. The envelopes contain money.”

“I don’t understand,” Mrs. Dumbrowsky said.

“Well, to Special Agent Timmons, it was pretty clear it was a message. If you

don’t give us trouble, we will give you money. And if you do, we know where

to find your family.”

“Mr. Walsh, how experienced an agent was Timmons?” Weiss asked.

“He hadn’t been down there long, if that’s what you’re asking,” Walsh said.

“And how long had he been with the DEA?”

“He hasn’t been in DEA very long, but if you’re suggesting he was—that he

is—sort of a rookie, I don’t think that’s right. He was a cop in Chicago. He

comes from a family of cops. And he’s a lawyer. He was recruited for the DEA

by one of our guys in Chicago who met him and liked what he saw. He’s flu-

ent in Spanish.”

“Go on, please, Colonel,” Weiss said, “and tell us whatever else this very

bright, very new DEA agent has theorized.”

Colonel DeBois nodded and said, “Timmons also saw sophistication in

how these people dealt with DEA agents. There were significant differences. For

one thing, there were no envelopes with money, which Timmons felt was sig-

nificant because it meant that the drug people knew the DEA agents could nei-

ther be bought nor coerced by threats against their families. Or because the drug

people knew that injuring—or killing—the family of an American would bring

a good deal of attention.”

“But they are willing to kidnap DEA agents?” Inspector Saffery of the

FBI asked.

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W . E . B . G R I F F I N

That’s the first time he’s opened his mouth.

“Oh, yes.”

“One would think that DEA agents would protect themselves from being

kidnapped,” Weiss said. “Wouldn’t you, Inspector?”

“Very few FBI agents are kidnapped,” Saffery said, chuckling.

“That’s what Timmons found interesting,” DeBois said.

“Doesn’t kidnapping imply a ransom?” Norman Seacroft, of the Treasury

Department, asked. “That’s interesting! How much did they ask?”

“Kidnapping is taking someone against his or her will,” Saffery said, some-

what intolerantly. “There doesn’t have to be a ransom element.”

“These people don’t ask for a ransom?”

“Not so far,” Walsh said.

“Then why do they kidnap them? And how do we get them back?”

Seacroft asked.

“According to what Timmons told Lorimer, they kidnap them to suggest

that working too hard to interdict the flow of drugs is not smart.”

“But they turn them loose, right?” Seacroft said.

“As I understand it, all the DEA agents who have been kidnapped have been

returned unharmed,” Weiss said.

“Mr. Weiss, are you suggesting that becoming addicted to heroin is not

being harmed?” Colonel DeBois asked, coldly courteous.

“Addicted to heroin?” Seacroft parroted.

DeBois explained, “I don’t know the exact figure— Timmons didn’t know—

but at least two kidnapped DEA agents who were turned free by their captors

had become addicted to heroin.”

“Four,” Walsh said.

“Let me make sure I understand this,” Inspector Saffery said. “While these

people held the DEA agents, they forced heroin on them? Turned them into


“Correct,” Walsh said.

“That’s hard to believe!” Mrs. Dumbrowsky said.

“The ones who were addicted were released after there had been a success-

ful delivery of a large drug shipment,” Walsh said.

“This is the first I’ve heard of this!” Saffery said, indignantly.

“Inspector,” Walsh said, “think about it. If you were a field agent who had

become involuntarily addicted, would you like that information to become

widely known? Even—perhaps especially—within the FBI?”

“As Mr. Ellsworth has pointed out, this is nothing more than hearsay,” Mrs.

Dumbrowsky said. “The State Department has heard nothing like this.”


1 9 3

“And unless the colonel has some more fascinating hearsay to relate,” Weiss

said, “I really do have other things to do.”

He stood up.

“As a matter of fact, Mr. Weiss, I wasn’t quite through,” DeBois said, coldly.

Weiss reluctantly sat down.

“Putting everything together, Timmons had been wondering if perhaps the

Paraguayan drug-shipment operation was being run by someone other than the

Paraguayan/Colombian/Bolivian drug people.”

Castillo glanced at Weiss.

You didn’t expect to hear that, did you, Milton?

But who is he talking about?

I can’t believe that Timmons got into the Stasi/DGI involvement.

“That’s absurd!” Weiss said.

“Why is it absurd, Mr. Weiss?” DeBois asked, courteously.

“On its face,” Weiss said.

“Wait a minute,” Saffery said. “Why not? The drug trade didn’t start last

week. A lot of these people have lived in the States for years—some of them

even legally with Green Cards, even citizenship—”

“Your point, Inspector?” Weiss interrupted.

“What I’m saying is that they’ve been in the States long enough to figure

out what Cousin José back in Colombia has been doing wrong and to tell him

how to do it right.”

“Define ‘right’ for me, please, Inspector,” Weiss said.

“Don’t kill our DEA people,” Saffery said. “That draws attention to you.

Knock off that macho bullshit—excuse me, Mrs. Dumbrowsky—that doesn’t

make us any money. Getting the stuff through is what makes us money.”

“With all respect, Inspector, I still think that’s absurd,” Weiss said, and

stood up again. “Mr. Ellsworth, if I have to say this, if the agency comes by some

solid intelligence, it will be immediately brought to your attention, and that of

Ambassador Montvale.”

“Thank you,” Ellsworth said.

The rest of the CIA delegation was now on its feet.

They followed Weiss to the door.

“Not that one, Weiss,” Castillo blurted. “That’s the door to my office.”

By then Weiss had cracked the door open.

He turned to look at Castillo.

Max, towing Sergeant Phillips behind him, shouldered the door open.

The edge caught Weiss on the side of the face.

“Sonofabitch!” he exclaimed, and backed away, running into the rest of the

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W . E . B . G R I F F I N

CIA delegation and causing further consternation. No one actually fell down,

but almost, and two briefcases hit the floor.

Max went to Castillo, sat down, and offered him his paw.

“Colonel, I’m sorry,” Phillips said. “I didn’t realize how strong he is!”

“Presumably, Castillo, that animal is yours?” Ellsworth said.

“Actually, I’m just minding him for a friend,” Castillo said. “You all right,

Mr. Weiss?”

Weiss glared at him, then marched to the other door, and the CIA delega-

tion departed.

The others in the room were reacting as if an auto accident had just

happened before their eyes. No one moved, or showed any inclination to

do so.

“Well, it would appear this meeting is over,” Castillo said.

Ellsworth looked at him with a stone face, then turned to those at the table

and said, “Yes, it would appear that way. Thank you, all, for coming.”

“Colonel,” Castillo said to Colonel DeBois. “May I have a moment of your

time, sir?”

He gestured toward the open door to his office.

DeBois nodded, stood up, and walked to the door, then through it. Castillo,

with Max and Phillips behind him, followed, and then Miller.

“Dick,” Castillo said, “close and lock that behind you, will you, please?”

“I thought I heard you say ‘my office,’ ” DeBois said. “Are you going to tell

me what’s going on here, Colonel?”

Castillo did not immediately respond.

He said, “Take the leash off Max, Phillips, and then see if you can raise the

safe house.”

“Yes, sir.”

Max—as if he had understood what Castillo had ordered—sat down and

allowed Phillips to remove the wire leash from his neck. Phillips went into the

commo room. Max walked to Castillo and lay down at his feet.

Castillo met DeBois’s eyes.

“Sir, with respect, you are not here and never have been here. But if you had

been here, everything you might have seen, heard, or intuited is classified Top

Secret Presidential.”

DeBois’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t reply.

Phillips came to the door of the commo room and said, “We’re up, sir.”

“Sir?” Castillo said, and asked DeBois with his eyes to go ahead of him into

the commo room.

Sergeant Neidermeyer handed Castillo the handset.


1 9 5

The screen flashed the legend SUSANNA SIENO.

Castillo pressed the speaker button, then said: “Good morning, Susanna.”

“How are things in our nation’s capital?”

“I just had an unpleasant session with one of your coworkers, a guy named

Milton Weiss. Know him?”


“Is Eddie Lorimer around?”

“Right here, Colonel,” Lorimer’s voice came over the speaker.

“Colonel DeBois of DIA has been asking about you.”

“I guess that was bound to happen. Colonel DB’s one of the good guys,

Colonel. What did you tell him?”

“Nothing, of course,” Castillo said. “Hold one, Eddie.”

He put his hand over the microphone.

“I’m sorry, Colonel,” Castillo said. “But that concludes your tour of the Of-

fice of Organizational Analysis.”

DeBois looked at him a long moment before he spoke.

“Thank you, Colonel Castillo. If you ever need anything, anything at all,

you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, sir. And if you hear anything interesting, I’d be grateful if

you’d pass it to Major Miller.”

DeBois nodded and walked out of the commo room. Castillo put the hand-

set to his ear and turned off the speaker.

“Susanna, how long will it take to get just about everybody there? Includ-

ing Darby and Santini? And Munz.”

“Probably the better part of two hours.”

“Well, it’s important. So will you set it up, please? Give me a call when every-

body’s there.”

“Will do,” she said.

“Break it down, Neidermeyer,” Castillo said, and handed him the handset.

“Stay loose. As soon as I’m finished with that call, we’re off.”

“Yes, sir.”

Castillo walked out of the commo room and sat down at his desk.

“You shut off the phones in the hotel?” he asked.

Miller shook his head.

Castillo picked up one of the telephones on his desk and punched one of

the buttons on it.

“And how are you this bright and sunny morning, Uncle Billy?” Castillo

asked in German.

“I probably shouldn’t admit this to you,” Eric Kocian said, “but I’m

1 9 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

actually feeling pretty chipper. Mädchen and I took our morning

constitutional past the White House. I was reminded of what people say

about Paris.”

“Which is?”

“Beautiful city. If it wasn’t for the people, I’d love it. And then I came back

to the hotel and had a word with the manager—”

“What didn’t you like?”

“I told him that once he provided a decent leather armchair with footrest,

the accommodations would be satisfactory. And to continue to send the bill

to Fulda.”

“Billy, what am I supposed to do with Max?”

“You were the one who sent Mädchen to him. As ye sow, so shall ye


“I’ve been thinking of sending him to my grandmother.”

“His broken heart would be on your conscience, Karlchen. Max took

one look at you and—for reasons that baffle me—transferred his affections to

you. But dogs choose their masters, you know, rather than the other way


Castillo looked across his office. Max was lying on the carpet in front of the

couch, his head between his paws, looking at him.

“Where was Sándor Tor when you took your walk this morning?”

“He insisted on going with me. He and an apparently deaf man from the

Secret Service. He wears a hearing aid and keeps talking to his lapel.”

Castillo laughed, even though he knew he shouldn’t.

“You know why he’s there, Billy.”

“Even as much as they dislike me, I don’t think the FSB is going to try to

shoot me in front of the White House.”

“Never underestimate your enemy. Write that down, Uncle Billy.”

“If you have nothing important to say, Karlchen, the hotel has at long last

delivered our breakfast. They do a very nice corned beef hash with poached eggs.

I suspect Mädchen will like it.”

“I’ve got to go out of town for a couple of days. We’ll resume this conver-

sation when I get back.”

“Remember not to give Max more than one small piece of chocolate at a

time. Too much chocolate gives him flatulence. Auf Wiedersehen, Karlchen.”

Castillo put the handset back in its cradle. He opened his mouth as if to

say something, but didn’t. A red LED on another telephone was flashing.

Castillo leaned to it to read the legend.

“Montvale,” he said, and reached for it.


1 9 7

“That didn’t take long, did it?” Miller asked.

“Good morning, Mr. Ambassador,” Castillo said. “Why do I think you’ve

just been talking to Mr. Ellsworth?”

“He has a phone in his Yukon,” Montvale said. “Did you actually bring that

dog to the meeting?”

“Actually, Max invited himself.”

“I gather the meeting wasn’t all that we hoped it would be?”

“I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know.”

“So what’s next?”

“In case the President asks?”

“In case the President asks.”

“Well, I have to go to MacDill to see General McNab, and then to Fort

Rucker to see about Hueys, and then to Mississippi to see if I can talk Ambas-

sador Lorimer out of going to Uruguay.”

“Your plane is back already?”

“No. I’m going to travel in unparalleled luxury and comfort in an Execu-

Jet aircraft.”

“Which will not be able to land at either MacDill or Fort Rucker without

making waves. Would you like to use my plane?”

“I’d love to use your plane. But what if you need it?”

“I’ll get something from Andrews.”

“Then I gratefully accept. Thank you.”

“It’ll be waiting for you in, say, thirty minutes. Keep in touch, Charley.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

The line went dead.

“Do you think he’s loaning you his airplane because he likes you,” Miller

asked, “or because he can now tell the President he loaned it to you?”

“You have a suspicious and devious mind, Major Miller. Have you ever

considered a career in intelligence?”

“Charley, if you want—it would save you two hours—I can bring the peo-

ple in Argentina up to speed. Unless there’s something I don’t know?”

“Bottom line: Make no waves.”

Miller nodded.

Castillo stood up and walked to the door of the commo room.

“Come on, Neidermeyer,” he said. “We’re off.”

1 9 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N


MacDill Air Force Base

Tampa, Florida

1135 4 September 2005

The ground handlers wanded the Gulfstream V to a stop on the visiting air-

craft tarmac. An Air Force master sergeant, who Castillo had decided was a com-

bination of crew chief and steward, moved quickly to open the door.

Max, who had been lying in the aisle beside Castillo’s chair, greeted him at

the door and went down the steps long before anyone could stop him.

Castillo looked out his window, vainly hoping that no one would be


General Bruce J. McNab was marching toward the aircraft. Two officers, one

middle-aged and the other younger, were on his heels. All were wearing the

Army combat uniform, a loose-fitting garment of light green, gray, and tan cam-

ouflage material, worn with the jacket outside the trousers. All were wearing

green berets.

One of McNab’s rather bushy eyebrows rose and his head moved toward

the nose of the aircraft. Castillo couldn’t see what he was watching, but

there was a very good chance he was watching Max void his bladder on the

nose gear.

“Sorry, Colonel,” Neidermeyer said. “That sonofabitch is quick.”

“Not a problem,” Castillo said, as he pushed himself out of his seat. “Gen-

eral McNab would have found something to criticize anyway.”

When Castillo got to the door, he saw Max was sitting at the foot of the

stair door, waiting for him. He went down the steps, faced General McNab,

came to attention, and saluted crisply.

McNab returned it with a casual wave in the direction of his forehead.

“I was going to compliment you, Colonel,” McNab said, “on your recruit-

ing poster appearance. But curiosity overwhelms me. Where did that animal

come from?”

“Sir, I’m going from here to Rucker. I thought Class A’s would be a

good idea.”

“And the animal?”

“That’s Max, sir. I’m keeping him for a friend.”

Neidermeyer came down the stairs.

“Jamie,” General McNab said. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that you

will be judged by the company you keep?”


1 9 9

“Good afternoon, sir,” Neidermeyer said. “Good to see you, sir.”

“It won’t be afternoon for another twenty-four minutes,” McNab said. “But

I’m glad to see you, too. Gentlemen, this is Sergeant Neidermeyer, one of

the better communicators from the stockade. The splendidly attired officer is

Lieutenant Colonel Castillo, and all the terrible things you have heard about

him are true.”

The colonel walked around McNab and offered Castillo his hand.

“Tom Kingston, Castillo,” he said. “And I have to tell you that on the way

here, the general told Inman”—he nodded toward the young officer—“that he

hopes whatever you have that made you the best aide he ever had is contagious,

because maybe he’ll get lucky and catch it.”

“Colonel Kingston,” General McNab said, “who betrays my confidential re-

marks at the drop of a hat, was wondering what you’re doing here, Charley. I

couldn’t tell him. Are you going to tell him? Or are you going to let him stum-

ble around in the dark?”

“This might not be the best place to get into that, sir.”

“Okay. Inman, take Sergeant Neidermeyer—and the airplane crew and that

animal—somewhere nice for lunch. Eat slowly. When you’re finished, bring

them by my quarters. By then, Colonel Kingston, Lieutenant Colonel Castillo,

and I will probably be through saying unkind things about enlisted men and

junior officers.”

“Yes, sir,” the aide said.

McNab made a Follow me gesture and started marching across the tarmac.

Mrs. Donna McNab kissed Castillo on the cheek before he was completely

through the front door.

“Oh, it’s good to see you, Charley!”

“For God’s sake, don’t encourage him,” General McNab said. “I’m trying

to get rid of him before he gets me in trouble again.”

“How long can you stay?” she asked, ignoring her husband.

“Maybe an hour and a half,” Castillo said.

“The Naylors will be really disappointed. They won’t be back until tomor-

row afternoon.”

“Me, too. It would have been great to see them.”

She looked at McNab and said, “Everything’s set up on the patio, darling.

I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that this is important and will leave

you alone.”

“Thank you. It is,” McNab said, made another Follow me gesture, and led

2 0 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Colonel Kingston and Castillo through the house and out back to a walled


There was a gas grill, a side table on which sat a plate of T-bone steaks and

another of tomatoes, and a small patio table that seated four and had place set-

tings for three.

“I will now be able to state that my former aide landed here for fuel, and

I entertained him at lunch at my quarters,” McNab said. “Purely a social


Castillo nodded his understanding.

“We are having steak and tomatoes,” McNab went on, “because I am on a

diet that allows me all the meat I want to eat and small portions of fresh veg-

etables. While I am cooking the steaks, you can bring Kingston up to speed.

Or as much speed as you feel appropriate.”

“Yes, sir,” Castillo said. “Colonel, I have to begin this with the statement

that everything I tell you, or you intuit, is classified Top Secret Presidential.”

“Understood,” Kingston said. “Maybe it would clear the air a little, Colonel,

if I told you that the secretary of Defense has called General McNab and in-

structed him to give you whatever you ask for, and that you would tell us only

what you felt was appropriate.”

Castillo nodded.

He began, “A DEA agent named Timmons has been kidnapped in Paraguay.

The President has promised the mayor of Chicago that he will get this guy back,

and tasked me to do so . . .”

“. . . and there is one more problem,” Castillo said when he had finished ex-

plaining what he had planned and the problems he saw in doing it.

General McNab, his mouth full of steak, gestured for him to go on.

“The agency is apparently running an operation down there to catch these

people in the act of bringing drugs into the States aboard cruise ships. They in-

tend to seize the ship— ships, plural—under maritime law. A guy named Mil-

ton Weiss”—he paused to see if either McNab or Kingston knew of Weiss, and

when both shook their heads, went on—“came to see me last night and as

much as told me to butt out.”

McNab held up his hand as a signal to wait until he had finished chewing.

That took at least ten seconds.

McNab then said, “That sort of operation, I would think—correct me if I’m

wrong, Tom—would be run by the DEA or the Coast Guard or, for that mat-

ter, the Navy. They’ve got an ONI operation in Key West to do just that sort


2 0 1

of thing.” He looked at Kingston, who nodded his agreement. “So what does

Montvale have to say about this?”

“Montvale doesn’t know about it,” Castillo said.

“The agency is up to something like that and the director of National In-

telligence doesn’t know about it?” McNab said.

“Maybe doesn’t want to?” Kingston asked.

“I don’t think he knows,” Castillo said. “He was there when the President

gave me this job. He didn’t think it was a good idea. Neither did Natalie Cohen.

I think if he—and now that I think of it—he or Natalie knew about this agency

operation, one or the other or both would have used it as an argument to get

the President to change his mind.”

“Unless, of course, they know the President well enough to judge that he

was not in a frame of mind to change his mind,” McNab said.

“I don’t think he knows,” Castillo said. “I don’t think either of them do.”

“How did this Weiss character know what you’re up to?” Kingston asked.

Castillo told them about Delchamps, and then that Miller had eavesdropped

on the session with Weiss, and that both were willing to go with him to the


McNab thoughtfully chewed another piece of beef, then said: “My advice,

Charley, would be to obey the last lawful order you received, which was to go

get the DEA guy back.”

“I was hoping you’d say that, sir,” Castillo said.

“That was advice, Charley. I’m not in a position to give you orders.”

“Yes, sir, I understand. But thanks for the advice.”

“I hope it didn’t change your mind about anything.”

“No, sir. It did not.”

“Good. Maybe you did learn something after all during all those years you

were my canapé passer.”

Castillo chuckled. As long as he had been McNab’s aide-de-camp, he had

never passed a canapé to the general’s guests. McNab regarded the primary

function of an aide-de-camp to be sort of an intern, an opportunity for a ju-

nior officer to see how senior officers functioned and learn from it.

He wondered if the young captain whom McNab had sent to feed Neider-

meyer, Max, and the Gulfstream crew understood this.

McNab had never said anything to me. I had to figure it out myself; that was

part of the training.

“Okay, Tom. What do you think?” McNab said.

And that’s something else I learned from Bruce J. McNab. I’d heard about it

at the Point, but I learned it from him.

2 0 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

A wise officer gets—even if he has to force the issue—the opinions and sugges-

tions of his subordinates before he offers his own, and, more important, makes any


That way, they say what they think, rather than what they think the boss wants

to hear.

“Nothing, General, but how to get the Hueys down there black,” Kingston

said, thoughtfully. “That does not pose much of a real problem—except the

usual ones, time and money. Castillo wants this done yesterday.”

“With respect, sir, it’s not me who wants it done yesterday,” Castillo said.

“But black outweighs time.”

“How about money?” Kingston asked.

“You tell me how much is wanted, and where, and Dick Miller will wire it

within a matter of hours.”

“It would be impolitic of you, Tom,” McNab said, “to ask where he’s get-

ting the money.”

“My concern is whether there’s enough.”

“There’s enough,” Castillo said.

“Charley has some experience with how much black costs,” McNab

said. “So how do we get the Hueys down there, and exactly where do we

send them?”

“Open for a wild hair?” Kingston asked.

McNab nodded.

“The Ronald Reagan, ” Kingston said.

McNab pursed his lips thoughtfully.

“Excuse me?” Castillo asked.

“It’s an aircraft carrier, Charley. Named after the Gipper,” McNab said drily.

Kingston added, “And it’s sailing around the world, or at least down the east

coast of South America, and around the horn, or whatever they call it, and then

up the west coast to San Diego.

“Onto her, Tom,” McNab corrected him. “She’s sailing around the world.”

Kingston nodded. “If we could get those Hueys onto her either before she

leaves, or even after she leaves, they could just be flown off. . . .”

“Wouldn’t that make waves?” Castillo asked, and then heard what he had

just said and, shaking his head, muttered, “Jesus Christ!”

“I don’t think so,” Kingston said, smiling at him. “We could say they’re for

the press or something. The Navy probably won’t like the idea—”

“The Navy will do what the secretary of Defense tells it to do,” McNab

said, flatly.

“You have a place where they could be landed black?” Kingston asked.


2 0 3

“I know just the place,” Castillo said. “But the last time I was in Uruguay

their head cop told me, ‘Good-bye and please don’t come back.’ ”

“You want me to set this up with the Navy or not, Charley?” McNab asked.

“Yes, sir, please. I’ll find a place to fly them off to before they get there.”

“Just the Hueys? Or the Hueys and the shooters?”

“Just the Hueys,” Castillo said. “We’ve got a few days. It would be better to

send them down as tourists, or soccer players, a couple at a time.”

“No problem with Spanish-speaking A-Teams, Tom?” McNab asked.


“Get on the horn to Bragg. I want four shooters on their way within twelve

hours, different airlines, and six every twenty-four hours thereafter. You have a

place for them to go, Charley?”

“By the time they get there, I will.”

He wrote several telephone numbers on a sheet of paper and handed the

paper to Kingston.

“That’s if something happens and Lorimer doesn’t meet them at the airport.”

Kingston nodded his understanding.

“We could send the weapons and the gear on the Hueys,” Castillo said,

thoughtfully. “If we can’t get the Hueys into the country black, we won’t need

the weapons. And that’ll eliminate having to send them under diplomatic cover,

which would open a can of worms.”

Kingston grunted his approval.

“Get the weapons and gear moving to Rucker right away,” McNab ordered.

“There’s a buck general there, Crenshaw, I’ve dealt with before. I’ll get on the

horn to him and give him a heads-up, tell him to stash the weapons and gear

until Charley knows what he wants to do with it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll also tell him to expect eight Huey pilots—and four crew chiefs—from

the 160th at Campbell, same story. I’ll get on the horn to Campbell myself as

soon as I can.”

“Yes, sir,” Kingston said.

“Anything else for right now?”

Kingston looked at Castillo.

“The money?” Kingston said.

“You’ve got a black account here, sir?”

“In the base branch of the Wachovia Bank.”

“If you’ll give me the number, sir, I’ll get on the horn to Dick Miller, and

the money will probably be in it by the close of their business day. How much

will you need, sir?”

2 0 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“This isn’t going to be cheap, Castillo. We’ve got—”

“Will a million cover it for openers, sir?”

“More than enough,” Kingston said.

“Wrong answer, Tom,” McNab said. “Probably not, Colonel Castillo. But

we can always come back to you for more, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s it, then?” McNab asked.

“I think that covers just about everything for now, sir,” Kingston said.

“Yes, sir. Thank you both.”

“Why don’t we see if Miller is going to have any problems getting the

money down here before I start loaning you money from my special funds?”

McNab said.

Castillo took his cellular phone from his pocket. Kingston handed him a

slip of paper.

Ninety seconds later, Castillo broke the connection.

“Done, sir. Major Miller sends his compliments, sir.”

“Story going around is that he’s being retired medically. True?”

“Yes, sir. First of the month. He’s going to work for me.”

McNab shook his head.

“Goddamn shame,” he said, and then heard what he had said. “I don’t

mean his working for you, Charley. I meant . . . his being involuntarily retired.”

“Yes, sir. It is.”

McNab shook his head and then smiled.

“Okay. Those shrill girlish giggles you may have been hearing are those

made by my wife when she is playing with a dog. I suspect everybody’s here.

Once again, my timing is perfect.”

He began to scrape the meat scraps from his plate onto another and then

reached for Castillo’s plate.

“That animal of yours eats meat, right?”

“Yes, sir. He does.”

When they went into house, Mrs. Bruce J. McNab was already feeding Max.

“Charley, he’s adorable,” she said. “And he really loves chocolate, doesn’t he?

That’s his fourth Hershey bar.”



Cairns Army Airfield

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1530 4 September 2005

Castillo stuck his head in the cockpit of the Gulfstream V and said, “Thanks,


“Any time, Colonel,” the pilot, an Air Force major, said as he offered

his hand.

“You’ve got another general meeting you, Colonel,” the copilot, a young

captain, said, offering his hand and then pointing out the window.

Castillo saw that the copilot was wearing an Air Force Academy ring.

Another bright and bushy-tailed young man, he thought, not unkindly,

who went through the academy dreaming of soaring through the wild blue yon-

der in a supersonic fighter jet . . . and wound up in the right seat of a Gulf-


And who by now has realized he’s lucky to be there.

Most of his classmates are probably still wingless, flying a supply room desk.

The Air Force had far more academy graduates wanting—and qualified

for—flight training than the Air Force had a requirement for pilots. The bitter

joke going around the Air Force was “If you really wanted to fly, you should

have joined the Army. They have more aircraft than we do.”

Castillo looked to where the lieutenant pointed.

Brigadier General Crenshaw, the deputy commander of Fort Rucker and the

Army Aviation Center, was standing in the door of the Base Operations build-

ing with a young officer.

Oh, shit!

Last time I saw him, I said I was Secret Service.

That was—what?—just three days ago. . . .

When Castillo turned back to the passenger compartment, he saw that the

crew chief/steward had already unloaded their luggage, and Neidermeyer was

going down the stair door steps cradling the radio suitcase in his arms. Max was

2 0 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

standing in the aisle straining against his makeshift leash, which was firmly tied

to a seat mount.

Untying the wire leash proved difficult, as Max’s tugging on it had really

tightened the knot. Castillo finally got it undone, and allowed Max to tow him

down the stair-door steps. As he did, he saw that Crenshaw had walked across

the tarmac to the airplane.

He saluted as well as he could while allowing Max to make his way to the

nose gear, where Max lifted his leg and broke wind. Several times. Loudly.

“Did you have to teach him to do that, Colonel?” General Crenshaw asked.

“Or did it come naturally to him?”

Castillo could think of nothing to say but “Good afternoon, sir,” so he

said that.

“Welcome back to Fort Rucker, Colonel,” Crenshaw said. “I have been re-

liably informed that you did in fact learn how to fly in Texas, and that there

was probably a good reason you told me you were in the Secret Service.”

Castillo’s confusion showed on his face.

General Crenshaw smiled and nodded toward Base Operations. Two fa-

miliar faces were now standing outside the building.

One was Lieutenant General Harold F. Wilson, U.S. Army (Retired), wear-

ing Bermuda shorts and a pink golf shirt. The other was Lieutenant Colonel

Randolph Richardson, in ACUs. General Wilson waved happily. Colonel

Richardson smiled.

Or is he grimacing as he squints in the bright sunlight? Castillo thought.

“When General McNab called to tell me you were coming, I was on the fif-

teenth hole with General Wilson. I was once his aide, so I knew about his re-

lationship with your father.”

“I haven’t seen General Wilson for several years,” Castillo said. “He retired

to Phoenix, I believe.”

“That’s right,” General Crenshaw said.

“And I haven’t seen Richardson for . . . I don’t remember the last time I

saw him.”

“Well, he’s my very competent assistant G-3, which makes him just the man

to get you whatever you came for. Would that be all right with you?”

“Yes, sir. That would be fine. Thank you.”

“And this gentleman is?” Crenshaw asked.

“My communicator, sir. Sergeant First Class Neidermeyer. He has to be close

to me, so I was going to introduce him as Mister Neidermeyer and smuggle him

in a BOQ with me. But I’m a little tired of bending the truth. So I guess it’s

the Daleville Inn.”


2 0 7

Crenshaw offered his hand to Neidermeyer.

“Welcome to Fort Rucker, Mr. Neidermeyer,” he said. “I hope you and

Colonel Castillo find the Magnolia House comfortable.”

Hearing the name Magnolia House brought back fond memories for

Castillo. More than a decade ago, his grandparents had stayed in the World War

II–era frame housing that had been converted to a cottage for transient VIPs.

“Thank you, sir,” Castillo said.

Castillo, Crenshaw, and Neidermeyer started to walk across the tarmac.

Two neat young sergeants trotted out to them and offered to take their luggage.

Neidermeyer would not part with the radio suitcase.

When Castillo and Neidermeyer got close to the building, General Wilson

spread his arms wide.

“How are you, Charley?” he called, and wrapped him in a bear hug.

When he let him go, he said, “Bethany talked yesterday to your grand-

mother, who told her you had made a couple of flying trips to the Double-Bar-

C but, as usual, she had no idea where you were. So I’m really glad to see you.”

“I’ve been moving around a lot,” Castillo said. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, we came to see Beth and Randy and the grandchildren. Rucker’s hot,

but not as hot as Phoenix, and I do like to play golf.”

“How is Beth?” Castillo asked, politely, as he put out his hand to Rich-


“Well, thank you,” Richardson said without emotion.

What do I call him?

Randolph? Randy?

“Good to see you, Randy.”


“Your grandmother,” General Wilson went on, “told us your promotion fi -

nally came through. Congratulations.”

“They were scraping the bottom of the barrel,” Castillo said. “This is Jamie

Neidermeyer, my communicator. Jamie, General Wilson flew with my father

in Vietnam. And this is Colonel Richardson. We were classmates at West Point.”

They shook hands.

It was fairly obvious from Neidermeyer’s “how do you do, sirs” as well as

his general appearance that he was military. But Richardson either didn’t pick

up the significance of his not being identified by rank or didn’t want to.

“You’re in the service, Neidermeyer?”

Neidermeyer looked at Castillo for guidance.

“He works for General McNab, Randy,” General Crenshaw said. “At the

moment, he’s not wearing his uniform. When Castillo was here the last time,

2 0 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

neither was he. He told me he was in the Secret Service. Mysterious indeed are

the ways of the Special Operations Command and those in it.”

“Well, now that that’s out in the open,” General Wilson said, “am I stick-

ing my nose in where it’s not particularly welcome?”

“No, sir. Not at all,” Castillo said. “I’m scrounging things for General

McNab, but, if you’re free, I’d love to buy you and your bride dinner tonight.”

“Beth and her mother are at this moment preparing dinner,” Richardson

said. “She said she couldn’t remember the last time she saw you.”

Odd. I remember it with great clarity.

“The invitation of course includes you and Mrs. Crenshaw, General,”

Richardson went on. “And you, Mr. Neidermeyer.”

“I don’t want to intrude, Richardson,” General Crenshaw said.

“It wouldn’t be an intrusion at all, sir. And it would give you and the gen-

eral more time together.”

Crenshaw looked at Castillo to see what he should do.

“And you and I could talk about the terrible things we had to do as aides-

de-camp to difficult generals, General,” Castillo said, then smiled.

“Who was yours?” Crenshaw said.

“Bruce J. McNab.”

“I didn’t know that,” Crenshaw said. “I’d love to hear what that was like.

Yes, Colonel Richardson. Mrs. Crenshaw and I gratefully accept your kind in-

vitation to dinner.”

“General Crenshaw, could I have a moment of your and Randy’s time?”

Castillo asked.


Crenshaw led them to the pilots’ lounge, politely asked the two pilots there

if they would mind giving them a few minutes alone, and then looked

at Castillo.

“This operation is highly classified, sir,” Castillo said. “The fewer people

who know I’m here, or have been here, the better. What I need is four H-

Model Hueys for an operation—”

“What kind of an operation?” Richardson interrupted.

“If you don’t know that, Randy,” Castillo said somewhat impatiently, “then

you can truthfully swear that I didn’t tell you what I wanted them for.”

Of all the light colonels at Rucker, I get Righteous Randolph?

Richardson nodded his understanding.

“They have to have GPS,” Castillo went on, “and they have to be in very

good shape. And, I have to tell you, you probably won’t get them back.”

Righteous’s jaw just now about bounced off the tiled floor.


2 0 9

“We have been directed to give Colonel Castillo whatever he asks for, and

that he has the highest priority,” General Crenshaw said.

“How do we explain your presence if someone recognizes you?” Richard-

son asked.

“The cover story is that I’m an executive assistant to the secretary of Home-

land Security, and that I’m here because this was the most convenient place for

me to come and rent a light aircraft—I’ll get to that in a minute—and fly to

Pass Christian, Mississippi, on a mission for the secretary.”

“Two things, Castillo,” General Crenshaw said. “That area was badly

mauled by Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know if any fields down there are open.

Have you considered a Black Hawk?”

“There’s an airstrip where I’m going. It’s open. And a light airplane will at-

tract less attention than an Army helicopter. Neidermeyer went on the Inter-

net and found a Cessna 206H available for charter at the airport in Ozark—”

“The Flying Hearse,” Crenshaw interrupted, chuckling.


Crenshaw smiled, then explained:

“Actually, it’s a T206H—turbocharged. The fellow who owns the funeral

home is a flying enthusiast. Flying is expensive—that airplane cost more than

a quarter million dollars—but he thought he had the solution. If he had an air-

plane, he could fly cadavers to where they were going to be buried and charge

the same thing airlines do—twice the price of the most expensive first-class

ticket. That would be a substantial contribution to the cost of his hobby. He

was so enthusiastic that he didn’t check to see if a coffin would fit in the air-

plane. They don’t. So, it is reliably reported, he transports—in of course the

dead of night, so to speak—the cadavers in body bags, strapped into a seat, and

has a casket waiting wherever he’s going. I know him. I can call and set that up

for you, if you’d like. You can fly a 206?”

“I can fly a 182 and a Citation,” Castillo said. “Will that work?”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Crenshaw said. “But he’ll probably

want to ride around the pattern with you. Anything else?”

“There will be pilots and crew chiefs coming here from the 160th at

Fort Campbell.”

“General McNab told me,” Crenshaw said, and looked at his aide. “Find

accommodations for them, Richardson. They should start arriving tomorrow.

Eight pilots and four crew chiefs.”

“Yes, sir,” Richardson said.

“And some supplies from Fort Bragg,” Castillo added. “Which will have to

be stored somewhere secure until they can be loaded on the Hueys.”

2 1 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“What kind of supplies?” Richardson asked.

“The kind that need someplace secure to store them,” Castillo said, point-

edly avoiding details.

“General McNab said they’re coming by truck tonight,” Crenshaw said to

Richardson. “They’ll probably be here by morning. Have the truck put in the

MP impound lot until you can make better arrangements in the morning. And

make sure the MPs are guarding the impound lot.”

“Yes, sir,” Richardson said.

“And as soon as possible, Neidermeyer has to get his radio up,” Castillo said.

He saw the questioning look on Crenshaw’s face.

“It’s in the suitcase,” Castillo said, nodding at it. “It doesn’t take long, but

I’d rather not do it here.”

“May I ask what kind of a radio?” Richardson asked.

I am tempted to tell you, “None of your fucking business.”

But resuming hostilities with you, Righteous, would be counterproductive.

“It’s a rather amazing system developed by AFC,” Castillo said. “Bounces

signals—voice and data, both really deeply encrypted—off satellites. When we

get to Magnolia House, I’ll show you how it works.”

“I’d like to see that,” Crenshaw said. “I just thought of something. How are

you going to pay for the Flying Hearse?”

“American Express,” Castillo said, reaching for his wallet. “Never leave

home without it.”

He took his AmEx card from his wallet and handed it to Crenshaw, who

examined it. He then looked at Castillo.

“The Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund,” the general said.

Castillo nodded and grinned. “Yes, sir.”

“I won’t ask what that is,” the general went on, “but will simply repeat

what I said before, that mysterious indeed are the ways of the Special Opera-

tions Command and those in it.” He paused. “I can call from the car on the

way to the post, if you’d like. I’m driving my own car, but Richardson’s got

a van.”

I’ll be damned if I’m stuck riding the bus with Righteous.

“If you’ve room in your car, and I’m not an imposition, that’d be great, sir,”

Castillo said. “Thank you.”


“Would you like a drink, Charley?” General Wilson asked when they were in-

side the Magnolia House. “Under the circumstances, I’m going to allow myself


2 1 1

to have one. And I might even allow my dear friend General Crenshaw here a

little taste.”

“Indeed, I would,” Castillo said. “I have been a good boy all day, and it’s

been a very long day.”

And I just drove past the Daleville Inn, which triggered a flood of not at all

unpleasantly lewd and lascivious memories.

Neidermeyer came into the living room carrying a DirecTV dish antenna.

“You want a drink, Jamie?” Castillo said.

“Wait ’til I get this thing up, sir. What I need now is a stepladder or a chair,

so I can stick this thing on the roof.”

“Try the kitchen,” General Wilson said, and pointed, then asked,


Neidermeyer looked at Castillo for guidance. Castillo nodded.

“Actually, sir,” Neidermeyer said seriously, “I have a much better one, but

it says Super Duper Top Secret Delta Force Satellite Antenna and the colonel

won’t let me use it. He says it makes people curious.”

The general chuckled.

“It took only a couple of small modifications to this,” Neidermeyer said.

“Mostly the installation of a repeater, so we don’t need the coaxial cable to con-

nect to the box. It ought to be up in a minute or so.”

“Need any help, Jamie?” Castillo said.

“No, sir. Thank you.”

Richardson came in as Castillo, Crenshaw, and Wilson touched glasses.

“Your man is installing a cable TV dish on the roof,” Richardson


“And any minute now, we can get Fox News,” General Crenshaw said with

a straight face.

Castillo chuckled, and Richardson shot him a look, wondering what that

was about. Then Richardson turned his attention back to the general.

“Sir, the field-grade OD has been advised of the truck coming from Bragg.

They’ll be expecting it at the gate, and there will be an MP escort to guide it

to the MP impound lot, where it will be under guard until Colonel Castillo tells

me what he wants to do with it.”

“First thing in the morning, Randy,” General Crenshaw said, “go out to

Hanchey Field and take over a hangar large enough for four H-models. Arrange

for the MPs to guard it, then move this equipment into it. That sound about

right, Castillo?”

“Yes, sir, that sounds fine.”

2 1 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Sir,” Richardson said, “am I to sign a receipt for this equipment?”

“Good question,” Castillo said. “I didn’t think about that. Well, when the

truck gets here”—he stopped as Neidermeyer came back in the house, then went

on “Neidermeyer here will happily get out of bed and sign for it. Right,


“The stuff from Bragg?”

Castillo nodded. “Tonight it goes into an MP lot. In the morning, Colonel

Richardson will have it moved to a guarded hangar at Hanchey—one of the air-


“Yes, sir. Am I going with you tomorrow, sir?”

“You and the magic box.”

“Sir, it might be a good idea if we had our own wheels.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Crenshaw said. “What would you like?”

“Sir, vans are pretty inconspicuous. And I don’t think we need a driver.”

“Randy?” the general said.

“I’ll have one here in fifteen minutes, sir.”

“This should take me about ninety seconds, sir,” Neidermeyer said to

Castillo, and walked out of the room.

Richardson walked to a telephone on a credenza, took a small notebook

from his pocket, found what he was looking for, and dialed a number.

“Colonel Richardson, Sergeant. General Crenshaw desires that a van be

sent immediately to the Magnolia House. A driver will not be required.

“Yes, Sergeant, I’m aware that it’s unusual. But that is the general’s desire.”

He listened a moment and said, “Thank you,” and hung up.

For Christ’s sake, Righteous!

You’re a lieutenant colonel. You can give orders for a lousy van all by


You didn’t have to hide behind Crenshaw’s stars.

Castillo caught General Wilson’s watching eye.

And that wasn’t lost on him, either.

“A van has been laid on, sir,” Richardson announced.

“Thank you.”

Neidermeyer walked back into the living room and handed a handset

to Castillo.

“They say twenty-five feet max with no wire, but give it a try.”

Castillo looked at the handset, saw H. R. MILLER, JR. on its small screen,

pushed the loudspeaker button, and said, “So I shamed you into not taking

off early?”

“Where are you, Charley?”


2 1 3

“In Magnolia House at Rucker. And guess who’s with me?”

“No, thanks.”

“General Wilson and Randy Richardson.”

“You’re on loudspeaker?”


“Good evening, sir. Dick Miller, sir. Hey, Righteous, how they hanging?”

“Hello, Dick,” General Wilson said. “Good to hear your voice.”

Restraining a smile, Wilson added softly to General Crenshaw: “That’s

Dick Miller’s son. He’s also a classmate of Randy’s.”

“Hello, Miller,” Richardson said without enthusiasm.

“Anything happen?” Castillo asked.

“I made the deposit to the bank where you were earlier,” Miller said. “That

airplane’s back from you know where. The pilot thereof is crashing in subur-

bia. He says if you need to go anywhere in the next twenty-four hours, take a

bicycle. The copilot’s on his way you know where, and the plane that took him

will bring J. Edgar Hoover, Jr., back here. That’s about it.”

“In the morning, I’m going to Mississippi to see the ambassador. Then

back here.”

“How are you going to get to Mississippi?”

“I rented a T206H.”

“You’ll be flying right over what used to be Pascagoula and Biloxi.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I’ve been watching that on the tube right now. Incredible. The storm surge

picked up a couple of those floating casinos and dumped them two, three hun-

dred yards—maybe more—inland. There are slot machines all over. No dam-

age at Rucker?”

“I didn’t see any. Nothing like that.”

“Okay, Chief. Keep in touch.”

Castillo pushed the OFF button.

“I’ll hang this up, Jamie. Make yourself a drink. And while you’re at it, see

what Colonel Richardson will have.”

As he left the living room, he heard Richardson say somewhat piously,

“Nothing for me, thank you.”

2 1 4


. E . B . G R I F F I N


1040 Red Cloud Road

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1735 4 September 2005

“There it is, Jamie,” General Wilson said. “One Zero Four Zero.”

He and Castillo were in the second-row bench seat of the Army Dodge

Caravan, Max having decided he would rather ride in the front passenger


Neidermeyer slowed the van almost to a stop as they approached the house.

It was a single-family frame one-story building, identical to the ones on its left

and right as far as Castillo could see.

Castillo vaguely remembered that lieutenant colonels and better— or was it

majors and better? —got separate houses. Lower ranks had to share an inte-

rior wall.

Hanging from two eighteen-inch-high posts next to the driveway was a


The carport was full with a Pontiac sedan and a civilian Dodge van. Behind

them, on the drive, was a Buick sedan with Arizona license plates and a Mer-

cury sedan pulled up behind the Dodge.

“It looks like the Crenshaws are here,” General Wilson.

“Maybe I’d better park on the street,” Neidermeyer said.

“It’s against the law,” Wilson said. “Pull in behind the Mercury.”

“Why is it against the law?” Castillo asked.

“About the time of Custer’s Last Stand, a child darted out between two cars

parked on the street and was run over. You just can’t have that sort of thing, and

so they passed a law. I tried to change it when I was post commander and was

dissuaded by a regiment of outraged mothers.”

“What do you do if you have more people coming to dinner than you have

room in your driveway?”

“You politely ask your neighbors if the extras can park in their drive,” Wil-

son said. “If your neighbor outranks you, or your wives have been scrapping,

you’re out of luck.”

Neidermeyer pulled the van in behind the Mercury.

The house front door opened. Mrs. Harry F. Wilson looked out at the van.

“What do you say I get out and stagger up to the door?” General Wil -

son said.

“General, please don’t do that to me,” Castillo said with a grin.


2 1 5

General Wilson slid the back door open, got out, and walked to the door,

holding up an index finger.

“Max, you stay,” Castillo said in Hungarian, and followed Wilson.

“What’s this mean?” Bethany Wilson asked, more than a little suspiciously,

holding up her own index finger.

“It’s the answer to your question, dear. ‘How many drinks did Charley

feed you?’ ”

“Very funny,” she said. “Hello, Charley, how are you?”

Castillo held up three fingers.

“Haven’t changed a bit, have you, handsome?” she asked, and kissed his


Neidermeyer was by then standing outside the van.

“Mrs. W., this is Jamie Neidermeyer,” Castillo said.

“Hello, Jamie,” she said.

“He and Charley are tied together,” General Wilson said. “He’s got a radio

in that suitcase.”

“Hello, Charley,” Mrs. Randolph Richardson said from behind her mother.

“How nice to see you again.”

She’s still a looker, still looks like a younger version of her mother.

And why do I suspect she’s less thrilled than her father and mother that Good

Ole Charley’s coming to dinner?

“It’s nice to see you, too, Beth,” Castillo said. “Beth, this is my communi-

cator—and friend—Jamie Neidermeyer.”

“Hello, Jamie,” Beth said, offering her hand.

“Jamie’s going to need a place to put a small dish antenna,” General Wil-

son said.

“A what?”

“A DirecTV antenna,” Wilson said. “Except it’s not. It’s the satellite antenna

for the radio in his suitcase. What about the patio?”

Beth smiled uneasily.

A small, dressed-for-company girl, about six years old, pushed past Beth and

called out, “Grandpa!”

Another girl, about eleven or twelve and who looked like her mother and

grandmother, came through the door, followed finally by a boy Castillo guessed

to be about twelve or thirteen.

“Charley,” Beth said. “This is Randy, the Fourth, and Bethany—”

“The third?” Castillo asked.

“Girls don’t usually do that,” Beth said. “And Marjorie. This is Colonel

Castillo. You know who he is?”

2 1 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

None of the three had a clue.

“This is Doña Alicia’s grandson,” Beth explained.

The boy showed a very faint glimmer of interest; the girls none at all.

“Grandpa Wilson flew with Colonel Castillo’s father in Vietnam,” Mrs.

Bethany Wilson said.

“And Daddy and Colonel Castillo were friends, classmates, at West Point,”

Beth Richardson said.

This produced the same level of fascination and excitement as had the pre-

vious footnotes to history.

They’re not being rude, Castillo thought. They just don’t give a damn. And

why should they?

Something did excite Marjorie, the smallest: “There’s a dog in Grand-

pa’s car!”

She ran toward it.

Oblivious to her mother’s order—“Marjorie, come back here this

instant!”—she pulled open the front passenger door.

Oh shit! Castillo thought.

The evening’s festivities will begin with Beth’s forty-pound daughter being

mauled by my one-hundred-forty-pound dog.

He ran to the van.

By the time he got there, Max had leapt out of the van, licked Marjorie’s

face to the point of saturation, and was sitting down offering her his paw.

She put her arms around his neck.

“Marjorie, it would appear, has found a new friend,” General Wilson ob-

served. He had been on Castillo’s heels and now was catching his breath.

“Is that yours?” Beth accused from behind her father. She didn’t seem sur-

prised when Castillo nodded.

“She really loves dogs,” Beth said.

“So did you, honey,” General Wilson said. “All your life.”

“We’ve never had one,” Beth said, and when she saw the look on Cas-

tillo’s face, added, “You know how it is, moving around all the time in the


Bad answer, Beth.

Your father always was able to keep one.

Truth is that Righteous probably doesn’t like dogs.

They’re always a nuisance and a potential source of trouble and might inter -

fere with the furtherance of one’s career.

Beth averted her eyes as General Crenshaw and Lieutenant Colonel Richard-

son came out of the house.


2 1 7

“Look at that, will you? Love at first sight!” General Crenshaw called.

“Hey, Max!”

Oblivious to the weight of Marjorie clinging to his neck, Max walked to

General Crenshaw and offered him his paw.

Now what, Righteous?

Your general thinks Max and your kid make a great pair.

Think fast!

“Beautiful animal,” Richardson said. “You’ve got a nice one there.”


I guess I might as well face it that you are now mine, Max.

Well, what the hell. I told Abuela when she said I didn’t even have a dog that

I’d get one.

“Well,” Richardson went on, “why don’t we put the dog back in the car and

then see about having a drink and something to eat?”

“I want to play with him!” Marjorie announced firmly.

“Randy,” General Wilson said. “What about putting him on the patio and

letting the kids play with him?”

“Good idea!” Richardson said with forced enthusiasm.

Dinner—the whole evening—went better than Castillo thought it would.

Beth was a good hostess.

Why am I surprised?

She learned the profession of Officer’s Lady from her mother, who may as well

have written the book.

And more than that, Beth was gracious.

She seated Jamie Neidermeyer next to her and across from General Cren-

shaw, and went out of her way to make him comfortable.

And the kids were remarkably well behaved, even the little one.

Castillo was seated between Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Crenshaw, who struck

him as another first-class officer’s lady.

Even Max behaved. He lay outside the sliding glass door to the patio, his

head between his front paws, just watching and neither whining nor suggest-

ing that he would really like something to eat.

General Wilson, a little happy but not drunk after two glasses of wine, re-

galed everybody with stories of Warrant Officer Junior Grade Jorge Castillo,

who, Colonel Castillo decided, must have driven his commanding officer nuts.

One of the stories, which Castillo had not heard, was of a middle-of-the-

night moonlight requisitioning flight in which a mess-hall-sized refrigerator

2 1 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

and a generator to power it were, as General Wilson gaily related, “liberated

from a QM dump and put to work for the 644th Helicopter Company.”

He sipped his wine, then with a huge grin said: “For the better part of the

next day, the old man was torn between socking it to Jorge and me for misap-

propriation of government property or enjoying the cold beer. Cold beer won

in the end.”

Castillo glanced at Richardson, who clearly was not as amused with the story

as was his son, whose face showed he thought the idea of stealing things with

a helicopter sounded great.

Then Castillo’s eyes met Beth’s, and he wondered if she was thinking of what

had happened in the Daleville Inn.

Hell yes, she is.

That would be natural.

But that was a very long time ago.

The last thing I’d do is try to resurrect anything.

A little after eight-thirty, just after Castillo had turned down a glass of brandy—

“I have to fly in the morning”—there was a familiar faint beep and, a moment

later, Neidermeyer reached into his lap and came up with the radio handset.

He looked at it, then stood up, said, “Excuse me. It’s for you, sir,” and

leaned across the table to hand it to Castillo.

The legend read GEN MCNAB.

“Yes, sir?” Castillo said into the handset.

“I’ve got the truck driver on a landline. He’s fueling at Benning. Who do I

tell him to see when he gets to Rucker?”

“General Crenshaw has named Colonel Richardson as his action officer, sir.

But Neidermeyer and maybe me will meet the truck at the gate.”

“Driver and two shooters,” McNab said. “Make sure they’re taken care of.”

“Yes, sir, of course.”

Castillo was aware that everyone was looking at him.

“Crenshaw taking good care of you?” McNab went on.

“Couldn’t ask for anything more, sir. As a matter of fact, I’m sitting across

Colonel Richardson’s dinner table from him. And General Wilson.”

“I don’t have the time to wander down memory lane. Give them my com-

pliments,” McNab said, and a faint change in the background noise told Castillo

that McNab had broken the connection.

Castillo pushed the OFF button and handed the handset back to Neider-



2 1 9

“That was General McNab,” Castillo said. “His compliments to you,

gentlemen, and his apologies for having to take another call right now. The

truck has just refueled at Fort Benning. What is that, an hour, hour and a half

from here?”

Both Wilson and Crenshaw nodded.

“He was checking to make sure the truck driver and his crew—total of

three—are taken care of.”

“I’ll take care of that, General,” Richardson said before Crenshaw could give

the order.

And now, Castillo thought, I can get out of here.

“Beth, thank you for a delightful meal,” he said. “But I’m afraid that Jamie

and I are going to have to be the infamous guests who eat and run. We’ve got

a lot on our plate tonight and a first-light flight tomorrow.”

“I understand,” she said. “We’ll have to do it another time.”

“I’d like that. I accept.”

And with that exchange of polite lies, I really can get out of here.

“Charley, do you know how to find the airport in Ozark?” General Wilson


“I’m sure I can find it, sir.”

“I’ll take you,” Wilson offered.

“That’s unnecessary, sir.”

“I’ll take you,” Wilson insisted.

He’s trying to be nice, sure. But there’s more to it than that.

Hell, he wants to go. Why didn’t I think of that?

“Sir, would you like to go along? What I have to do there won’t take long—

it just has to be done in person. We should be back here at, say, four or five.”

“I don’t want to intrude, Charley. But I really would like to see the damage

along the Gulf Coast.”

“Then you’ll go. And there’s room for one more in the airplane. Any tak-

ers? It would be something to see.”

“Can I go?” Randolph Richardson IV asked.

“Of course not, son,” Randolph Richardson III said quickly.

The look on Beth’s face showed that she firmly supported that parental


“Why not?” General Wilson said.

“This is none of my business, of course,” General Crenshaw said. “But

think it over, Richardson. It’s one hell of an opportunity for the boy. For the

rest of his life he’d remember that right after the hurricane, he flew over the area

with his grandfather and saw everything.”

2 2 0


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“Well, viewed in that light,” Randolph III said.

“I don’t think so,” Beth announced. “It would be dangerous.”

“But General Crenshaw is right, honey,” Randolph III said. “It would be

something he would remember all his life. Are you sure of your landing field,

Castillo? It’s safe to use?”

Castillo nodded.

I don’t want to take the kid.

I don’t even want to take General Wilson.

I was just being a good guy. No good deed ever goes unpunished.

“Okay, then, it’s settled,” General Wilson said. “Randy and I will pick you

up at oh dark hundred at the Magnolia House. That way you won’t have to leave

the Army van at the airport.”


Ozark Municipal Airport

Ozark, Alabama

0655 5 September 2005

J. G. Jenkins, the somewhat plump proprietor of the Greater Dale County

Funeral Home and Crematorium, Inc., incongruously attired in a loud flow-

ered Hawaiian shirt and powder blue shorts, did insist on taking a ride around

the pattern with Castillo before turning over his Flying Hearse to him.

In the end, Castillo was glad he did.

As Castillo turned on final, Jenkins idly mentioned that he was sure Castillo

was aware that the Rucker reservation—and Cairns Field—was restricted airspace.

“You’re going to have to go to either Dothan or Troy before heading for

the beach.”

“Yes, I know. Thank you.”

And another lie leaps quickly from my lips.

I’d forgotten that. And, if you hadn’t reminded me, I would’ve taken off and

flown the most direct route to the Gulf—right over both the base and the airfield.

I doubt they would’ve scrambled jets to shoot me down. But there damned sure

would have been a lot of FAA forms to fill out.

“Explain in two hundred words or less why you have done something really stu-

pid like this.”

He set the single-engine, high-wing T206H down smoothly on its tricycle

gear, then taxied to the hangar where General Wilson, Randy the Fourth, Nei-

dermeyer, and Max were waiting.


2 2 1

Castillo was a little surprised that Jenkins hadn’t at least asked questions

about Max getting into his pristine airplane—it was painted a glossy black, like

a hearse, and the tan leather interior spotless. He concluded in the end that Jen-

kins had decided in view of the three hundred fifty dollars an hour that he was

charging for the use of his hearse—dry, as Castillo had to fuel it himself—it was

necessary to accommodate the customer.

“Well, I guess you’re my copilot, General,” Castillo said after he’d shut down

the engine and his passengers approached the aircraft.

“Charley, I’d be useless in the right seat. I haven’t flown in years, and . . .”

General Wilson held up a Sony digital motion picture camera. Neider-

meyer had an almost identical one hanging from the lanyard around his neck.

When Castillo looked at him, Wilson said, “I’d really like to get pictures of

the damage, Colonel.”

Castillo looked at the boy.

“Well, I guess you’re my copilot, Randy.”

“Yes, sir.”

Castillo motioned to the double doors on the starboard side of the fuselage

and said, “Then hop in and make your way forward to the right seat.”

Wilson and Neidermeyer would take the middle-row bucket seats.

The bench seat in the rear was just wide enough for Max to lie down, if

he wanted.

“What do I do about a seat belt for him?” Castillo wondered aloud.

“Try to fly smooth and not come to a sudden stop,” General Wilson said.

Castillo sensed the boy’s eyes on him as he trimmed out the airplane and set

the autopilot on a more or less southwesterly course for Pensacola, Florida.

“Back in the dark ages when your grandfather and my father were flying,

they had to do this just about by themselves,” Castillo explained to Randy over

the intercom, his voice coming through the David Clark headsets that every-

one wore. “Now we just push buttons and computers do all the work.”

He showed him the Global Positioning System, then pointed to the screen

with its map in motion.

“Here we are, south of Fort Rucker. There’s where we’re going, Pass Chris-

tian, Mississippi. The computer tells me we have one hundred eighty-four miles

to go, that we’re at five thousand feet, and making about one hundred fifty miles

an hour over the ground.”

2 2 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

The boy soaked that all in, then asked, “Wasn’t it more fun when you did

it yourself?”

Without really thinking about it, Castillo disengaged the autopilot, said,

“Find out for yourself,” then, imitating the tone of a commercial airliner pilot,

raised his voice: “Attention in the passenger compartment. The copilot is

now flying.”

The boy looked at him in disbelief.

“If you’re going to drive, it might be a good idea to put your hands on the

yoke,” Castillo said. He pointed. “That’s the yoke.”

“The thing to remember, Randy, is to be smooth,” General Wilson

said, leaning over his grandson’s shoulder. “Don’t jerk the wheel. A very little

goes a long way.”

The boy put his hands on the yoke.

“Can you reach the pedals?” Castillo asked.

The boy tried, then nodded.

This probably isn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but what the hell.

General Crenshaw was right last night: The kid will never forget that he went

flying with his grandfather to see what Hurricane Katrina did to the Gulf Coast.

And we have plenty of fuel.

“Keep your feet on the pedals,” Castillo ordered. “But don’t move them till

I say. What you’re going to do now is make it go up and down. When you’ve

got that down pat, you’re going to turn us dead south.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said.

“Just ease the yoke forward, Randy,” his grandfather said. “And try to keep

the wings level.”

The hurricane damage—a lot of it—became worse as they came closer to the

coast. When they were over Pensacola Beach, Florida, the damage was so bad

that Castillo decided they needed a closer look.

“I’ll take it now, Randy. I want to get down for a better look, and I don’t

think you’re quite ready to make low-level passes.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy said, reluctantly taking his hands off the yoke.

The damage to Pensacola Beach was worse than anyone expected.

General Wilson and Jamie Neidermeyer got their video, then Castillo ad-

justed the flaps and throttle in preparation for the aircraft to climb.

“I’m going to give it back to you, Randy,” Castillo said. “What you’re

going to do now is climb, slowly, to five thousand feet and steer two seven



2 2 3

“Just ease back on the yoke,” Grandpa Wilson said. “You’re doing fine.”

He is. What the hell, his father and grandfather are pilots.

What was it Don Fernando used to say? “Genes don’t teach you how to do any-

thing, but they damn sure determine whether or not you can learn.”

How big were we when he taught Fernando and me to fly? About as big as this

kid, I guess.

God, Fernando and I had flown all over Texas and Mexico by the time we were

old enough to get a student’s license.

Over Mobile, Alabama, Castillo ordered the boy to turn south and fly to the

Gulf, and when they were over it, to turn right and start a gentle descent to fif-

teen hundred feet.

By the time they reached that altitude, they were over Pascagoula, Missis-

sippi, where the damage was literally incredible. Along the beach, the storm had

either destroyed or floated away everything within a quarter- or half-mile of the

normal waterline.

“Take it down another five hundred feet, copilot, and then I’ll take it.”

“Yes, sir.”

The damage got worse as they flew along the beach. They saw where two

floating casinos had been moved five hundred yards from where they had been

moored on the beach.

“Now, Randy, since I don’t know where I am, or exactly where it is that I

want to go, we will now let the computer take over.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ten minutes later they were over the landing strip of the Masterson Plan-


There was clear evidence of hurricane damage—tall pines snapped and

huge oaks, some of them obviously hundreds of years old, uprooted—but the

airstrip and the house and its outbuildings seemed intact.

There were a number of cars and trucks parked around the house.

Castillo made two low passes over the runway to make sure it was clear. As

he pulled out of the second pass to gain altitude to make his approach, he

happened to glance at the boy’s face. Randy clearly was excited, grinning from

ear to ear.

Damned shame the general stopped flying. He could have done this, and the kid

could remember that.

Oh, for Christ’s sake, stop it!

You’re here on business, not to pretend you’re the kid’s loving uncle.

2 2 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

As Castillo completed the landing roll, he saw three SUVs quickly approach-

ing the field. Then, as he taxied back to the single hangar where a sparkling

V-tail Beechcraft Bonanza was tied down, he saw people. He recognized

Winslow Masterson and his wife, and their daughter and her three children.

There was an older couple standing with them. Logic told him they were the

other grandparents, Ambassador Lorimer—the man he had come to see—and

his wife.

And logic told him, too, that the two approaching-middle-aged men in

business suits were members of China Post No. 1 in Exile, the retired special

operators whom Castillo had arranged for Masterson to hire to protect his

daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Winslow Masterson was a tall, slim, elegant, sharp-featured man. He had

told Castillo that he suspected his ancestors had been Tutsi.

The men in business suits watched carefully as Castillo parked the airplane,

and then one of them nodded—but didn’t smile—at Castillo when he appar-

ently recognized him. Both men then leaned against the fender of their SUV

as everybody else walked up to the airplane.

“Welcome back to the recently renamed Overturned Oaks Plantation,

Major Castillo,” Masterson said when Castillo climbed out of the airplane.

“This is a pleasant surprise.”

“Good to see you, sir,” Castillo said. “Anybody afraid of dogs?”

The question seemed to surprise everybody, but no one expressed any


Neidermeyer opened the aircraft’s rear double door, stepped out, com-

manded, “Okay, Max,” and let loose of his collar.

At the command, Max jumped out of the plane, headed for the nose gear,

and relieved himself.

The older Masterson boy laughed.

“It took months to train him how to do that,” Castillo said after everyone

else had crawled out of the airplane through the same double door.

Jesus Christ it’s hot! Castillo thought. And the humidity is damn near un-

bearable. Worse than at Rucker.

“I’m not going to call you Major,” Elizabeth Masterson, a tall, slim, thirty-

seven-year-old, said. “You’re a friend, Charley.”

She advanced on him and kissed his cheek.

“Actually, I’m a lieutenant colonel, he announced with overwhelming



2 2 5

“Good for you,” she said. “And is this your son, Charley?”

“No. Randy is General Wilson’s grandson.”

Castillo made the introductions.

“General Wilson,” Castillo then went on, “flew with my father in Vietnam.

I bumped into him at Fort Rucker, and since we were going to fly over what

used to be the beautiful Gulf Coast, and there was room in the plane . . .”

“Welcome to Overturned Oaks, formerly Great Oaks, General,” Masterson

said. “Any friend of Colonel Castillo is welcome here. We’re all indebted to the

colonel. And in that connection, Colonel, let me say that whenever your pro-

motion came through it was long overdue.”

“I am ready and willing to sign autographs,” Castillo said.

Max had already discovered the Masterson children, and they him.

“Where’d you get the dog, Colonel?” J. Winslow Masterson III asked, as he

shook Max’s paw. “He’s awesome!”

“My grandmother told me that since I didn’t have a family, I should get a

dog. And I always do what my grandmother says.”

“Pay attention,” Mrs. Winslow Masterson said.

“And speaking of grandparents,” Betsy Masterson said. “Dad, Mother, this

is Charley Castillo, who took such great care of us in Argentina, and brought

us home.”

“My wife and I are very grateful to you, Colonel,” Philippe Lorimer said.

He was a very small, very black man with closely cropped white hair and large

intelligent eyes. If there was visible evidence of his heart condition, Castillo

couldn’t see it.

“How do you do, sir? Ma’am? Mr. Ambassador, the secretary of State sends

her best regards to you and Mrs. Lorimer.”

“That’s very kind of her,” Lorimer said. “But why do I suspect that’s not all

she sent?”

“Sir, in fact, the secretary hopes that you’ll be willing to have a private

minute or two with me. Perhaps out of this heat?”

“Of course. But why do I suspect that’s going to take a lot longer than a

minute or two?”

Castillo was aware that General Wilson was taking all this in but had ab-

solutely no idea what anyone was talking about.

Ambassador Lorimer looked at Jamie Neidermeyer, then at Castillo.

“I’m surprised that someone like you, Colonel, needs a bodyguard,”

Lorimer said.

“Dad!” Betsy Masterson protested.

“The one advantage to being an old and retired ambassador, sweetie,” he

2 2 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

said, “is that after a lifetime of subtlety, evasion, and innuendo, you can just

say whatever pops into your mind.”

“The same thing is true of being a retired general, Mr. Ambassador,” Gen-

eral Wilson said.

“Actually, sir, Jamie is my communicator,” Castillo said. “They keep me on

a short leash to make sure I don’t say whatever pops into my mind.”

Lorimer laughed.

“He’s got one of those satellite telephones in that suitcase?”

“Yes, sir.”

“With which you have direct contact with the secretary of State?”

“Yes, sir, if you’d like to.”

“Don’t plug it in yet, young man,” Lorimer ordered. “I don’t wish to

speak to Secretary Cohen until after the colonel and I have had our two-minute


“You have a beautiful home,” General Wilson said when they were in the foyer

of the house.

Castillo thought the house made Tara, of Gone With the Wind, look like a

Holiday Inn. Off of the foyer, a curved double stairway rose to the second

floor. It was not hard to picture Clark Gable carrying Whatshername, the Eng-

lish actress, up the steps to work his wicked way on her.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Masterson said. “It’s been here a very long time, and

God spared it.”

“I told her that was God’s reward for her unrelenting battle against the

gambling hells of the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Masterson said.

“Don’t mock me, Winslow!” she said. “But you’ll notice what did happen

to the casinos.”

“Faulty argument, darling. Katrina also wiped out Jefferson Davis’s home,

and you know that he was a God-fearing gentleman always battling the devil

and all his wicked works.”

“That’s right,” General Wilson said. “I’d forgotten that. My wife and I went

to his home twice when I was at Fort Rucker. That was damaged?”

“Wiped out,” Masterson said. “Utterly destroyed.”

“Then you were very lucky here,” Wilson said.

“Yes, we were,” Masterson said. “And thanks more to the charm of the

salesman than any wise planning on my part, there were diesel emergency gen-

erators in place to kick in as they were supposed to when the electricity went

off. When my cousin Philip flew in with emergency rations—that’s his Bonanza


2 2 7

in the hangar—he found us with Betsy and the Lorimers watching the after-

math of the disaster on television.”

Wilson shook his head.

“You were very lucky,” he said.

“You’re an admirer of Jefferson Davis, General?” Masterson asked, chang-

ing the subject.

“We went to the same school,” Wilson said. “At different times, of course.”

Then he added, very seriously, “Yes, I am.”

“That’s the right thing to say in this house,” Masterson said. “From which

my ancestors marched forth to do battle for Southern rights.”

“And just as soon as the history lesson is over,” Ambassador Lorimer said,

“I’m sure Colonel Castillo would like to have our little chat.”

“Why don’t you take the colonel into the library, Philippe?” Masterson said,

smiling tolerantly. “I’ll send Sophie in with coffee and croissants.”

“This way, Colonel, if you please,” Lorimer said.

The library, too, would have been at home in Tara, except that an enormous

flat-screen television had been mounted against one of the book-lined walls and

half a dozen red leather armchairs had been arranged to face it.

And there was an array of bottles and glasses above a wet bar set in another

wall of books.

Ambassador Lorimer headed right for it.

“May I offer you a little morning pick-me-up from Winslow’s ample stock?”

he asked.

“No, thank you, sir. I’m flying.”

“One of the few advantages of having a heart condition like mine is that

spirits, in moderation of course, are medically indicated,” Lorimer said as he

poured cognac into a snifter.

“Churchill did that,” Castillo said. “He began the day with a little cognac.”

“From what I hear, it was a healthy belt. And he was a great man, wasn’t

he? Who saved England from the Boche?”

“Yes, sir, he was.”

“In large part, in my judgment, because he put Franklin Roosevelt in

his pocket.”

“Yes, sir, I suppose that’s true.”

Lorimer waved Castillo into one of the armchairs and sat in the adja-

cent one.

A middle-aged maid wearing a crisp white apron and cap came in a moment

2 2 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

later with a coffee service and a plate of croissants. Lorimer waited for her to

leave before speaking.

“I was trained to be a soldier, Colonel,” he said. “Are you familiar with Nor-

wich University?”

“Yes, sir, I am.”

“It was one of the few places in the old days where a black man had a rea-

sonable chance to get a regular Army commission. So I went there with that

intention. Just before graduation, however, I was offered a chance to join the

foreign service, and took it primarily, I think, because I thought someone of my

stature looked absurd in a uniform.”

“I have a number of friends who are Norwich, sir.”

“I remember a pithy saying I learned as a Rook at Norwich: ‘Never try to

bullshit a bullshitter.’ Keeping that and the fact that I spent thirty-six years as

a diplomat in mind, why don’t you tell me why Secretary Cohen is trying to

put me in her pocket?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean, Mr. Ambassador.”

“I think you do, Colonel. Let’s start with why she doesn’t want me to go to

my late son’s . . . estancia . . . in Uruguay.”

“The secretary believes that would be ill-advised, sir,” Castillo said. “She

asked me to tell you that.”

He nodded. “She sent the same message to me through others. What I

want to know is: why? I’m old, but not brain-dead. I don’t think it has a thing

to do with my physical condition, or for that matter do I swallow whole the

idea that the secretary, as gracious a lady as I know she is, is deeply concerned

for Poor Old Lorimer. Why doesn’t she want me to go down there?”

Castillo didn’t reply immediately as he tried to gather his thoughts.

Lorimer went on:

“I have my own sources of information, Colonel. Let me tell you what I’ve

learned. It is the belief of our ambassador there, a man named McGrory, who

is not known for his dazzling ambassadorial ability, and that of the Uruguayan

government, that my son died as the result of a drug deal gone wrong. I’m hav-

ing trouble accepting that.”

“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Ambassador,” Castillo said.

“Let me clarify that somewhat,” Lorimer said. “Sadly, I did not have

the same relationship with my son that Winslow Masterson enjoyed with

his son Jack. I didn’t particularly like Jean-Paul and he didn’t like me. I doubt

that Jean-Paul was involved in the illicit drug trade, not because he was my son

and thus incapable of something like that, but because it’s out of character

for him.”


2 2 9

He paused, then finished: “So, if he wasn’t in the drug trade, Colonel, what

was he doing that caused his murder?”

Castillo didn’t reply.

“Please do me the courtesy, Colonel, of telling me ‘I can’t tell you’ rather

than ‘I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.’ ”

“I can’t tell you, Mr. Ambassador.”

“We are now at what is colloquially known as ‘the deal breaker,’ ” Lorimer

said. “You have your choice of telling me, which means I will listen to what-

ever else you have to say, or not telling me, which means our little chat is over,

and Mrs. Lorimer and I will be on the first airplane we can catch to Uruguay.

We’ve been imposing on the Mastersons’ hospitality too long as it is.”

“Mr. Ambassador, this information is classified Top Secret Presidential.”

Lorimer didn’t seem surprised.

“To me,” Lorimer said simply, “that strongly suggests there has been a Pres-

idential Finding.”

Castillo didn’t reply.

“I will take your silence to mean that there is a Presidential Finding and you

don’t have the authority to confirm that. Your choice, Colonel. Get on that satel-

lite telephone and tell the secretary—or whoever has put you in your present

predicament—that unless you are authorized to tell me about the Finding, the

Lorimers are off to Estancia Shangri-La.”

Well, what the hell!

If he goes down there—and there’s no way I can stop him—the chances are that

he’ll do something—not on purpose—to compromise that operation, and thus the

Presidential Finding.

And for some reason—which is probably foolish—I trust him.

He’s a tough old bastard.

“I have that authority, Mr. Ambassador.”

“And you’re not going to tell me?”

“The President was at the air base in Biloxi when we returned from

Argentina with Mr. Masterson’s remains and his family. He informed me

there that he had made a Finding. A covert and clandestine organization had

been formed and charged with finding and rendering harmless those responsi-

ble for . . .”

Tapping the balls of his fingers together, Ambassador Lorimer considered for a

good sixty seconds what Castillo had told him before raising his eyes to Castillo.

“So the ever-present silver lining is that Jean-Paul was not a drug dealer,”

2 3 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

he said. “Hell of a note when you’re happy to hear your only son was just a thief

from other thieves, not a drug dealer.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Why should you be sorry? From what I hear, you’ve been the knight in

shining armor on a white horse in the whole sordid affair.”

“That’s not an accurate description, Mr. Ambassador.”

“It’s my judgment to make, Colonel,” Lorimer said. “How much of what

you have just told me does my daughter know?”

“Very little of it, sir. She doesn’t have the need to know. I did tell her—

and Mr. Masterson—that I was almost certain that the people who had mur-

dered Mr. Masterson—”

“Were ‘rendered harmless’?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How can you be ‘almost certain’ of that?”

“You don’t have the need to know that, sir.”

“You wouldn’t have told them that unless you were ‘almost certain,’ which

means you weren’t repeating what someone else had told you, but rather that

you were personally involved.”

Castillo didn’t reply.

“All of this except for your possible concern that I would go down and

somehow compromise the Presidential Finding—which is absurd—doesn’t

explain why you—and I mean you, not the secretary—don’t want me to go to


“May I go off at a tangent for a moment, Mr. Ambassador?”

Lorimer nodded.

“I understand, sir, why you’re anxious to . . . get out from under Mr. Mas-

terson’s hospitality—”

“Guests, as with fish, you know, begin to smell after three days.”

“My grandfather was known to say that, often in more colorful

terms,” Castillo said. “Mr. Ambassador, what would it take to get you to go

someplace—Paris, for example; Mr. Lorimer’s apartment is there and available

to you—for sixty days before you go to Uruguay?”

“The apartment is no longer available, Colonel. The man from the UN who

brought me the check for Jean-Paul’s death benefit—one hundred thousand

euros—also brought with him an offer for Jean-Paul’s apartment. Time and half

what it was worth. They obviously wanted to make sure Jean-Paul was forgot-

ten as soon as possible; now I know why.”

“Mr. Ambassador, I am prepared to offer you fifty thousand dollars a month

for two months to lease Estancia Shangri-La.”


2 3 1

“Either that’s your remarkably clumsy way of offering me a bribe to keep

me away from the estancia—which raises again the unanswered question of why

you don’t want me down there—or you really want to lease the ranch, and that

raises the really interesting question of why. What would you do with it?”

“I understand Phoenix, Arizona, is very nice this time of year, Mr. Ambas-


“So is Bali, but I’m getting a little old for bare-breasted maidens in grass

skirts. What do you want with the estancia, Colonel?”

“I’m running another operation down there, sir.”

“You going to do it under the nose of this fellow McGrory again?”

Castillo nodded.

“I want to use it as a refueling point for several helicopters I want to get

into Argentina.”

“You mean get into Argentina black,” Lorimer replied. He considered that

a moment. “Okay. You’re going to fly them off some ship in the middle of the

night and under the radar, right? Refuel them in the middle of nowhere in

Uruguay, and then on to Argentina?”

Castillo nodded.

“What’s the operation?”

“We’re going to try to get a DEA agent back from the drug dealers who kid -

napped him.”

“That sounds like a splendid idea,” Lorimer said. “It also sounds like the

DEA agent is not an ordinary DEA agent. We lose a lot of DEA agents in Mex-

ico and all we do is wring our hands. We certainly don’t send Special Forces

teams in unmarked helicopters to get them back.”

“This one’s grandfather is a friend of the mayor of Chicago.”

“That would make him special, wouldn’t it? Okay, you can use the estancia,

and I will forget that money you offered. If I remembered it, it would make

me angry.”

Castillo looked him in the eyes a long moment and said, “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome. And now you can tell me the best way to get from the air-

port in Montevideo to Shangri-La. Rent a car? Buy one? How’s the roads?”

Oh, shit!

I totally misread him . . . he’s still determined to go.

“I can’t talk you out of going down there, sir?”

“You didn’t really expect that you could, did you?”

“I really hoped that I could.”

Lorimer held up his hands in a gesture of mock sympathy.

“Look at it this way, Colonel,” he said. “If I’m there—Jean-Paul’s father,

2 3 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

come to look after his inheritance—far fewer questions will be asked than if two

or three men of military age showed up there by themselves and started haul-

ing barrels of helicopter fuel onto the place.”

Castillo didn’t say anything.

“Don’t look so worried. I didn’t spend all my diplomatic career on the

cocktail-party circuit.”

“I’m sure you didn’t, Mr. Ambassador.”

“You ever hear of Stanleyville, in the ex–Belgian Congo?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When the Belgians finally jumped their paratroops on it—out of USAF

airplanes—to stop the cannibalism on the town square, we did things differ-

ently back then. We paid less attention to the sensitive nationalist feelings of

the natives than to Americans in trouble. There I was on the airfield with two

sergeants from the Army Security Agency who’d been running a radio station

for me in the bush. We were waving American flags with one hand and .45s in

the other.”

Castillo shook his head in disbelief.

“I don’t lie, Colonel,” Lorimer said. “At my age, I don’t have to.”

“I wasn’t doubting your word, Mr. Ambassador.”

“I hope not. Until just now I was starting to like you.”

“It was not, sir, what I expected to hear from an ambassador.”

“There are ambassadors and ambassadors, Colonel. For example, my daugh -

ter tells me we have a very good one in Buenos Aires.”

“Yes, sir, we do.”

“Are we through here? Can we go deal with her now? She’s going to have a

fit when she hears you have failed in your noble mission to save the old man

from himself.”

“Sir, about getting to Shangri-La from the airport. I think I can arrange for

several Spanish-speaking Americans to meet you and take you there. Maybe they

could stay around and help you get organized.”

“These Good Samaritans just happen to be in Montevideo, right?”

Castillo laughed.

“No, sir. They’d actually be shooters from Fort Bragg. . . .”

“That’s a very politically incorrect term, ‘shooters,’ ” the ambassador said.

“I like it.”

“They would have a satellite radio with them. That would be useful. And

they would provide you and Mrs. Lorimer with a little security.”

“I would be delighted to have your friends stay with us as long as necessary

and be very grateful for their assistance.”


2 3 3

“Thank you, sir.”

Ambassador Lorimer stood up, picked up his now empty cognac snifter, re-

turned to the bottles on the credenza, and poured a half inch of Rémy Martin

into it. He raised the glass to Castillo.

“Since you’re on the wagon, Colonel: Mud in your eye.”

“I suspect there will be another time, sir.”

“I hope so.”

Lorimer looked at him intently for a moment, so intently that Castillo

asked, “Sir, is there something else?”

“I always look into a man’s eyes when I’m negotiating with him,” Lorimer

said. “I did so just now. And while I was doing that, I had the odd feeling I’d

recently seen eyes very much like yours before.”

“Had you, sir?”

“Yes. I just remembered where. On that nice boy you brought with you. The

general’s grandson. He has eyes just like yours.”

I’ve seen eyes very much like yours, too.

On Aleksandr Pevsner.

“I didn’t notice,” Castillo said.

The ambassador drained the snifter, then waved Castillo ahead of him out

of the library.

J. Winslow Masterson III and Randolph Richardson IV were kicking a soccer

ball on the lawn for Max. The adults and the younger Masterson children were

sitting in white wicker rockers on the porch.

Just as Castillo was about to warn them that Max was likely to take a bite

from the ball, Max did. There was a whistling hiss, which caused Max to drop

the ball, push it tentatively with his paw, and then take it into his mouth and

give it a good bite.

“Awesome!” Masterson III cried. “Did you see that?”

“I owe you a soccer ball,” Castillo said.

“Don’t be silly, Charley,” Betsy Masterson said, then turned to her father.

“How’d your little chat go?”

“Splendidly,” the ambassador said. “Colonel Castillo and I are agreed there’s

absolutely no reason your mother and I can’t go to Uruguay.”

“Dad, that’s absurd,” Betsy Masterson said. “Worse than absurd. In-


“That’s not exactly what I said, Mr. Ambassador,” Charley protested.

“Be that as it may,” Ambassador Lorimer said, “for the next several

2 3 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

months, Betsy, your mother and I will be using Jean-Paul’s home in Uru-

guay in lieu of our own, which is now, as you may have heard, the dikes

having been overwhelmed, under twenty feet of water and Mississippi

River mud.”

Betsy Masterson looked at him in exasperation, as if gathering her thoughts.

“I am reliably informed,” Lorimer went on reasonably, “that the house is

quite comfortable, that there is a staff to take care of your mother and myself

more than adequately—if not quite at the level of Winslow and Dianne’s hos-

pitality, for which we will be forever grateful—”

“You know what happened there, Dad!” she interrupted.

“—and your mother and I both speak, as a result of our service in Madrid,

quite passable Spanish.”

Betsy Masterson looked at Castillo. “Charley, you didn’t encourage him to

go down there, did you?

“No, ma’am. More the opposite.”

“Can’t you stop him?”

“I don’t see how,” Castillo said.

“I’ll call the secretary of State myself!”

“Secretary Cohen has already taken her best shot, sweetheart. She sent

Colonel Castillo to dissuade me. He failed.”

“You’re in no condition to fly all the way down there, Dad,” Betsy argued.

“You’re in no condition to go through the security hassle at an airport, much

less get on an airplane and fly that far.”

“I have survived going through the security hassles at a number of

Third World airports,” he said. “The one in Addis Ababa comes to mind as the


Despite herself, she smiled.

General Wilson stood up.

“I think I’ll take a little walk,” he said.

“Please keep your seat, General,” Winslow Masterson said. “This is not a

family argument. Philippe doesn’t have family arguments. He politely listens to

whatever anyone wishes to say, then does what he had planned to do in the

first place.”

“My wife does much the same thing,” General Wilson said.

“Thanks for the support, Father Masterson,” Betsy said, then turned to

her father.

“I’m not talking about down there, Dad, and you know it. I’m talking

about here. New Orleans is closed. You’d have to go to Miami. And how are

you going to get to Miami?”


2 3 5

“We’ll manage. May I suggest we change the subject?”

“Mrs. Masterson . . .” Castillo began.

“I’ve asked you to call me Betsy, Charley,” she snapped.

“Sorry. Betsy, since the ambassador is determined to go down there, what I

can do is arrange to fly your parents down there in a Gulfstream. I could arrange

to have them picked up in New Orleans, and if customs and immigration’s not

functioning there, stop at Tampa or Miami on the way down.”

“I don’t know whether to say ‘that would be fine, thank you very much’ or

‘for God’s sake, don’t enable him!’ ”

“You could do that, Charley?” Winslow Masterson said.

Castillo nodded.

“And I’ll arrange to have some friends keep an eye on your parents.”

“The same kind of friends who’ve been keeping an eye on Betsy and the kids

here?” Winslow Masterson asked.

Castillo nodded.

“Darling Betsy,” Masterson said. “I agree with you. If I had my way, Philippe

and your mother would stay here with us until they can have their house


“Winslow, it’s under water,” Lorimer said. “Everything in it has been de-

stroyed. And you know what they say when someone goes to the hereafter—‘I

want to remember him as he was, not lying in the coffin.’ I want to remember

the house as it was. I’m not foolish enough to try to resurrect it.”

“—as I was saying, darling Betsy, until they can have their house repaired

and a new one can be built for them. Here or in New Orleans—”

“That would be the prudent thing to do,” Betsy said. “The intelligent thing.

The only thing.”

“But he’s determined to go to Uruguay, and nothing you or I or anyone

else has to say will deter him. Just be grateful that Charley can arrange to carry

him there in comfort, and that Charley’s friends will be available to provide


“Can I offer you a taste of Winslow’s whiskey, General?” the ambassador

asked. “I’m not a drinking man, myself, but a little belt in the morning is med-

ically indicated for someone my age. Our age.”

“I’ve heard that,” General Wilson said. He looked at Castillo. “I think one

would be in order, Mr. Ambassador, thank you.”

Max trotted up on the porch with the now deflated soccer ball in his mouth

and dropped it at Castillo’s feet.

2 3 6


. E . B . G R I F F I N


Ozark Municipal Airport

Ozark, Alabama

1710 5 September 2005

When they walked up to General Wilson’s Buick, they found an envelope

jammed under the windshield wiper.

General Wilson opened it.

“From Beth,” he said. “ ‘Please call Randy as soon as you land. Charley’s

friends from Fort Campbell are waiting for him at the Magnolia House.’ ”

“That was quick,” Castillo said.

“So, knowing neither Randy’s number nor that of the Magnolia House,

what I think I’ll do is call Beth, ask her to call Randy, and tell her to tell him

we’re back, and that we’re going to be at the Magnolia House just as soon as

we can drop off our copilot at their quarters and get there.”

“Thank you,” Castillo said.

Mrs. Randolph Richardson III came out of her kitchen door as the Buick drove

up the driveway.

“How was the flight?” she asked.

“Colonel Castillo let me fly most of the way over there,” Randolph Richard-

son IV announced, “and just about all the way back. And Max flattened a

soccer ball in his mouth.”

“How nice of him,” she said with some effort.

“And Randy did very well,” General Wilson said. “I’ll be back right after I

drop Charley and Jamie off.”

Mrs. Richardson smiled.

“Take care, Randy,” Castillo said, and touched the boy’s shoulder. “Maybe

we can do it again sometime.”

“Oh, yeah! Thanks very, very much, Colonel.”

The look in her eyes makes it pretty clear she thinks that’s about as likely to hap-

pen as is our being canonized for a lifetime of sexual fidelity.

“My pleasure, Randy.”

“I won’t go in, Charley,” General Wilson said, as they drove up to the Magno-

lia House. “But let’s try to get together again while you’re here.”

“I’ll try, sir.”


2 3 7

“And thank you for the ride. Randy will never forget it, and neither will I.”

“I’m glad it worked out.”

“Your dad would have been very proud of you, Charley,” Wilson said, as

he offered his hand.

“Thank you,” Castillo said.

I never thought of that before.

What would my father think of me if he were around to have a look?

There were nine men in flight suits sitting at the dining room table of the Mag-

nolia House with Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Richardson III when Castillo

and Neidermeyer walked in.

“I would have called ‘attention,’ Colonel,” a barrel-chested, nearly bald

man greeted him, “but I knew you would really rather have me kiss your Hud-

son High ring.”

“My God, look what the cat drug in, all the way from Norwich,” Castillo

said happily.

He put his briefcase on the table, went to him, and wrapped him in a

bear hug.

“How the hell are you, Dave?”

Max sat down and looked up at them curiously.

“Where did you get the dog, Charley?”

“Long story,” Castillo said. “But he won’t tear your leg off if you’re polite.”

Dave squatted and accepted Max’s paw.

Castillo became aware that except for Richardson the other men at the table

had stood up.

“And I know who these guys are,” Castillo said. “The misfits, scalawags, and

ne’er-do-wells the colonel decided he could get rid of when they laid the per-

sonnel requirement on him.”

“You got it, Charley,” a tall, lanky man said, laughing. “Good to see you.”

“Where we going, Charley?” another asked.

Castillo didn’t reply directly.

Instead, he said, “Has Colonel Richardson gotten you all a place to stay?


“They’ve all been given transient quarters,” Richardson said. “We were dis-

cussing somewhere to eat when you came in. And there are two vans for their

use while they’re here.”

“I can’t stay, Charley,” the barrel-chested bald man said. He held up a can

of 7UP as proof suggesting that he was about to fly and had not been able to

help himself to anything alcoholic.

2 3 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“The boss,” he went on, “is out of town and I’m minding the store. And as

the commanding officer, when General McNab said ‘ASAP,’ I made the com-

mand decision that the best way to do that was fire up a Black Hawk and fly

these clowns down here. And I knew, of course—being an old buddy who is at

least a year senior to you—you would be delighted to tell me what the hell this

is all about.”

“Nice try, Dave,” Castillo said. “But if you’re not staying, I can’t tell you.”


“Not one goddamn word, Colonel.”

“He just shifted into his official mode, Jerry,” Dave said. “So there’ll be no

arguing with him. We might as well go home.”

“Yes, sir,” one of the pilots said.

“You understand, Charley, that it’s breaking my heart that you don’t

trust me?”

“Don’t let the doorknob hit you in the ass, Dave.”

Dave put out his hand.

“Great to see you, Charley,” he said, warmly. “You’ve got four more pilots

and two crew chiefs coming. You want them flown down?”

“The sooner they can be here, the better.”

“My master has spoken,” Dave said. “Not you. McNab. They’ll be here for

lunch tomorrow. How long are you going to need them?”

“You are tenacious, aren’t you?”

“That’s why I got promoted eighteen months before you did.”

Another of the pilots said, “I thought that had something to do with Charley

being out of uniform while flying a borrowed Black Hawk.”

The others laughed.

“Come to think of it . . . ,” Dave said, which produced more laughter. And

then he went on, “And really coming to think about it, he was really much

better-looking wearing a beard and Afghan robes, wasn’t he? In these civvies,

he looks like a used-car salesman.”

Castillo gave him the finger.

“Richardson, can we mooch a ride from you out to Cairns?” Dave


“Of course,” Richardson said. “Castillo, will I be needed here any

more tonight?”

Castillo shook his head. “Why don’t you meet us at Hanchey at, say, 0730?”

“I’ll be there,” Richardson said, then looked at Dave. “Anytime you’re

ready, Colonel.”

“Charley,” Dave said, “you take care of my scalawags and ne’er-do-wells, or

I’ll have your ass.”


2 3 9

Castillo nodded.

As Richardson opened the door to leave, Neidermeyer came through it.

“Hey, Jamie, long time no see!” Dave said, offering his hand.

“Good to see you, sir. You going to be in on this?”

“No, goddamn it, I’m not. McNab said, ‘Not only no, but hell no!’ ”

“Remember to send the colonel a postcard, Neidermeyer,” Castillo said.

“Yes, sir, I’ll do that.”

He waited until the door was closed, then went around shaking the hands

of the people he knew and was introduced to the others.

“Presumably you have put the antenna back up on the roof?” Castillo said.

“Yes, sir. We should be up.”

“Get on it, please, Jamie. Tell Miller and General McNab that we’re back

and that we have four pilots and two crew chiefs here, and are promised the oth-

ers by noon tomorrow. And check to see what’s going on.”

“Yes, sir.”

Castillo went to the table, took his laptop from his briefcase, and booted

it up.

As the computer hard drive made whirring sounds, he looked up at the


“You know the drill,” he said. “This is where I tell you the operation is Top

Secret and anyone who lets anything out goes to Leavenworth. The only dif-

ference this time is that the security classification is Top Secret Presidential. Any-

one with a loose lip gets two years as a Phase I Instructor Pilot and then goes

to Leavenworth.”

“A Presidential Finding, Charley?” one of them asked.

Castillo nodded.

“Let me give a quick taste, and then we’ll go get something to eat.”

From the laptop speakers came the familiar sound of a bugle sounding

Charge!— Castillo had replaced the annoying out-of-the-box Microsoft tune—

announcing that the computer was booted up and ready.

Castillo opened the Google World program and shifted the image of the

earth so that it showed the lower half of South America.

“Where in hell are we going?” one of them asked.

“Patience is a virtue, Mr. Reston,” Castillo said.

Finally, he had what he wanted, and pressed the keys to zoom in on the


“That’s an estancia, a ranch, called Shangri-La, 31.723 south latitude,

55.993 west longitude.”

“What’s there, Colonel?”

“A field big enough to take four Hueys at once and refuel them.”

2 4 0


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“Flying in from where?”

“The USS Ronald Reagan, at sea.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“And where do we go from there, sir?”

“I’m working on that.”



7200 West Boulevard Drive

Alexandria, Virginia

1115 7 September 2005

Castillo walked into the living room with Max on his heels and, following

the dog, an enormous, very black man in a three-button black suit—all

buttons buttoned—a crisp white shirt, and a black tie.

Colonel Jake Torine was sitting with Edgar Delchamps at the battered cof-

fee table. They both had their feet up on it, and Delchamps was reaching into

the box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the table between them.

Special Agent David W. Yung of the FBI and Sergeant Major John David-

son were sprawled in the red leather armchairs, with their own Krispy Kreme

box between them on a footstool.

Torine was wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. Yung, Davidson, and

Delchamps wore single-breasted nearly black suits. Yung’s and Davidson’s suits

looked as if they were fresh from a Brooks Brothers box. Delchamps’s suit looked

as if it had been at least six months since it had received any attention from a

dry cleaning establishment.

“Welcome home,” Torine said, taking a bite of his doughnut. They all

looked curiously at the black man.

“Colin,” Castillo said. “This is Colonel Torine, Mr. Yung, Mr. Delchamps,

and Mr. Davidson.”

“Gentlemen,” the black man said in a very deep, very Southern voice.

“Every nice house in suburbia needs a butler,” Castillo said. “So I got us one.

Say something in butler, Colin.”


2 4 1

“Yah, suh,” the black man said in an even thicker Southern accent. “Can I

fix you gentlemen a small Sazerac as a li’l wake-me-up?”

Delchamps’s eyebrows rose. A smile crossed Davidson’s face. Yung looked

baffled. Torine looked confused, and then recognition came.

“I’ll be damned,” he said, getting to his feet and putting out his hand. “I

didn’t recognize you in that undertaker’s suit. How the hell are you, Sergeant


“You are speaking, sir,” the black man said, now sounding as if he was

from Chicago or somewhere else in the Midwest, “to Chief Warrant Officer

Five Leverette.”

“When did that happen?”

“I took the warrant a couple of years ago when some moron decided they

needed two officers on an A-Team and they wanted to make an instructor out

of me,” Leverette said. “It’s good to see you, too, Colonel. Charley said they gave

you an eagle. When did you get that?”

“About four years ago. Where did Charley find you?”

“He found me,” Castillo said. “I was having my breakfast yesterday at

Rucker when in he walked. I thought he was a Bible salesman until he de-

manded to know what I intended to do with his team.”

“You’re in on this operation with us, Colin?” Davidson asked.

Leverette nodded. “Somebody’s going to have to keep Charley out of trou-

ble, right?”

“Oddly enough, I was just talking to somebody else about that,” Torine said.

He looked at Castillo. “We need to talk about that, Charley.”

“I also need a few minutes of your valuable time, Ace,” Delchamps said.

Max walked to Torine and put out his paw.

“Can he have a doughnut?” Torine asked. “I’m not sure he’s giving me his

paw because he likes me.”

“As long as it’s not chocolate covered,” Castillo said.

“The offer of a Sazerac is still on the table,” Leverette said. “Any takers?”

“I thought you couldn’t get one outside New Orleans,” Delchamps


“Today, you can’t get one in New Orleans. It’s under water, as you may have

heard.” He reached into his jacket pocket and came out with a small paper-

wrapped bottle about the size of a Tabasco bottle. “But here you can.”

“What’s that?” Yung asked.

“What’s this, or what’s a Sazerac?”

“Two-Gun has led a sheltered life, Colin,” Delchamps said. “I accept your

kind offer.”

2 4 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“ ‘Two-Gun’?” Leverette parroted, and then said, “This, Two-Gun, is Pey-

chaud’s Bitters. I never leave home without it. It is the essential ingredient in a

Sazerac cocktail, which I regard as New Orleans’s greatest contribution to the

general all-around happiness of mankind.”

“There’s the booze,” Torine said, pointing to an array of bottles. “I know

there’s rye, bourbon, and Pernod. But you need powdered sugar, too, right?”

When Leverette nodded, he added: “I saw some in the kitchen, thanks to the

ever-efficient Corporal Bradley. I’ll go get it.” Torine started for the kitchen,

then stopped and turned, and added: “About whom we also have to talk,


Leverette carried bottles of spirits to the table, then began to construct a

cocktail shaker full of Sazerac with all the care and precision of a chemist deal-

ing with deadly substances.

Torine returned from the kitchen with a box of confectioner’s sugar, a

lemon, and a paring knife in one hand, and five glasses in the other.

“Pay attention, Two-Gun,” Davidson said. “You will see a master at work.”

“It’s not even lunchtime,” Yung protested.

“They don’t drink in the morning in the FBI, Colin,” Delchamps said.

“How sad,” Leverette said.

“Charley,” Torine said. “Where’s Jamie and his suitcase?”

“I left him in Rucker. Things went so smoothly down there that any sec-

ond now the other shoe is sure to drop, and I want to be the first to know what’s

going wrong. I’m going to need another communicator right about now.”

“Does it have to be a communicator?” Torine asked. He stopped, looked

down, and saw that Max was again offering his paw. He reached into the Krispy

Kreme box and handed Max another doughnut. Then he saw the look of con-

fusion on Castillo’s face and added: “I mean a Delta Force guy?”

“Where else would I get one?”

“Lester,” Torine said. “He already knows how to work the satellite radio.”

“He ask you?” Castillo said.

“No. This is what I wanted to talk to you about. What happened was he

went to Davidson and asked him how he thought you would feel about send-

ing him back to the Marine Corps.”

He gestured for Davidson to pick up the story.

“I finally pulled it out of him,” Davidson said, “that one of the Secret Ser-

vice drivers asked him one time too many to be a good kid and go get him a

cup of coffee.”

“You mean one of the Secret Service guys asked him too many times, or they

all have been mistaking him for an errand boy?”

“Many of them, probably most have. You can’t blame them, but Lester is


2 4 3

pissed.” He looked at Leverette. “The colonel tell you about the Pride of the

Marine Corps?”

Leverette shook his head.

“Wait till you see him,” Davidson said. “He makes Rambo look like a


“Well, sending him back to the Marines is out of the question,” Castillo

said, a touch of impatience in his voice. “We can’t afford that. He knows too

much, and a lot of jarheads would like to know where he’s been and what he’s

been doing. And then wish they’d gone, and that would just make the goddamn

story circulate wider.”

“That’s just about what I told him,” Davidson said. “I also had a quiet

word with a couple of the Secret Service guys.”

“Okay. As soon as I have my Sazerac and thus the strength to get off of

this couch, I will inform Corporal Bradley that he is now my official commu-


“Gentlemen,” Leverette said, “our libation is ready. You may pick your

glasses up, slowly and reverently.”

They did so.

“Absent companions,” Leverette said, and started to touch glasses.

Yung looked as if he wasn’t sure whether he was witnessing some kind of

solemn special operator’s ritual or his leg was being pulled.

Castillo saw on Leverette’s face that he had picked up on Yung’s uncer-

tainty and was about to crack wise.

“Two-Gun’s one of us, Colin,” Castillo said simply. “He was on the opera-

tion where Sy Kranz bought the farm.”

“I could tell just by looking at him that he was a warrior,” Leverette said.

“He’s bowlegged, wears glasses, and he talks funny.”

“I think I like this guy,” Delchamps said.

“Sorry, Two-Gun,” Leverette said. “I didn’t know who the hell you were.”

Yung smiled and made a deprecating gesture.

“So was Corporal Bradley,” Torine said. “And he probably deserves a

medal—for marksmanship, if nothing else—for taking out two of the bad guys

with two head shots. But I don’t think we ought to call him in here and give

him one of these. God, this looks good, Colin!”

“Mud in your eye, Seymour,” Castillo said, and took a swallow.

The others followed suit.

Castillo put his glass on the table and exhaled audibly.

“You look beat, Charley,” Torine said.

Castillo nodded.

“So beat,” he said, “that I forgot that I have to call the secretary of State and

2 4 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

tell her I couldn’t talk Lorimer —Ambassador Lorimer—out of riding out the

aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Uruguay. I should have done that before I

had this.”

He held up the Sazerac glass.

Torine shrugged. “Well, what the hell, you tried. Miller told me you went

to Mississippi just to see him.”

“What’s bad about it, Jake, is that I’m going to have to lie to her, or at least

not tell her the truth, the whole truth, etcetera. And I don’t like lying to her.”

“Lie to her about what?” Delchamps asked.

“Did Miller tell you I went to see General McNab?”

Delchamps nodded. “But he didn’t say why.”

“We’re going to send two A-Teams—one of them Colin’s—to Argentina, a

couple of shooters at a time. Then we’re going to put four H-model Hueys into

Argentina black. Can you guess where we’re going to refuel them after they fly

off the USS Ronald Reagan a hundred miles off the Uruguayan coast before they

fly on to I-don’t-yet-know-where Argentina?”

“Boy, you have been the busy special operator, haven’t you?” Delchamps

said. “Does Montvale know about this?”

“No. Not about the Ronald Reagan. That idea came from a bird colonel who

works for McNab . . . Kingston?”

Delchamps shook his head. Torine and Davidson nodded.

“Tom Kingston,” Torine said. “Good guy, Edgar.”

“Amen,” Leverette said.

“And McNab said he would set that up. If it’s possible.”

“It’s possible,” Torine said. “After some admiral tells him not only no, but

hell no, he will be told to ask the secretary of the Navy, who will tell him that

he’s been told by the secretary of Defense that the President told him you’re to

have whatever you think you need. They call that the chain of command.”

Castillo chuckled.

“With that in mind,” Castillo said, “and since I couldn’t talk him out of

going down there, I confided in the ambassador what we want to do with his

estancia. He’s on board. Good guy. That raised the question of an advance

party at Shangri-La, which we damn sure need. One that might have a chance

of escaping the attention of Chief Inspector Ordóñez.”

“How are you going to handle that? With Two-Gun?” Delchamps asked.

“What Two-Gun is going to do is show up at the embassy in Montevideo

and introduce Ambassador Lorimer’s butler . . .”

“I wondered what that Colin-the-Butler business was all about,” Torine

said, smiling and shaking his head.

“. . . to Ambassador McGrory,” Castillo went on. “Explaining that Colin


2 4 5

came down to see what has to be done to Shangri-La before Ambassador and

Mrs. Lorimer can use it—which he has decided against advice to do—because

his home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.”

“That just might work, Charley,” Torine said.


“Why not?” Delchamps said.

“David?” Castillo asked.

“McGrory, like most stupid men in positions of power, is dangerous,”

Yung said.

“I agree with that, too,” Delchamps interjected. “I presume he’s to be kept

in the dark?”

Castillo nodded. “As is Secretary Cohen, who certainly is not stupid. But

there are people around her who might find out, and might tip off McGrory.

That’s what I meant about having to lie to her. I’m going to tell her Lorimer’s

going, period.”

“She’s liable to cable or telephone McGrory and tell him to take care of

Lorimer,” Yung said.

“I thought about asking her to do just that,” Castillo said. “But since I’m

not going to tell her about Colin, that would really be lying to her, deceiving

her. And I don’t want to do that.”

“And you’re not going to tell Montvale either?” Yung asked.

“More smoke and mirrors, David,” Castillo said. “I’m going to tell him that

two A-Teams and the Hueys are being sent—but no other details—and that as

soon as I firm up the operation, I’ll tell him all about it.”

The reaction of just about everybody to that was almost identical: Their

faces wrinkled in thought, and then there were shrugs.

“Speaking of the director of National Intelligence,” Torine said, “or at least

his Number Two, I had an interesting chat yesterday with Truman Ellsworth.

He even bought me a drink.”

Delchamps raised an eyebrow and offered: “And I had one with the DCI,

who didn’t buy me a drink, but about which we have to talk.”

“Ellsworth called you, Jake?” Castillo said.

“I called him.”


“What did you think of the crew on Montvale’s Gulfstream?”

“ ‘He asked, going off at a tangent,’ ” Castillo said.

Torine said reasonably: “I’d really like you to answer the question, Charley.”

Castillo grinned. “Well, they were Air Force, so I was pleasantly surprised

when they got it up and down three times in a row without bending it.”

Delchamps chuckled.

2 4 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Screw you, Colonel,” Torine said. “What about the copilot?”

“Nice young man. Academy type. I had the feeling he’d rather be flying

a fighter.”

“Cutting to the chase, that nice young man was naturally curious what a

doggie light bird was doing running around in Montvale’s personal Gulfstream

V. Diligent snooping around revealed that the doggie light bird was doing

something clandestine for that Air Force Legend in His Own Time, Colonel

Jacob Torine. He found that interesting, because said Colonel Torine was the

ring knocker who talked him out of turning in his suit and going to fly airliners.

So he called OOA at the Nebraska Complex, finally got Miller on the horn,

and Miller transferred the call here.”

“What did he want?” Castillo said.

“A transfer to do anything at all for his mentor,” Torine said, “so long as it

gets him out of flying the right seat in Montvale’s Gulfstream.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That I’d get back to him. That’s when I called Ellsworth to ask him how

the ambassador would feel about letting us have him.”

“Jesus, Jake, we could really use—we really need— another Gulfstream

pilot,” Castillo said.

“Especially since one of three we have has gone home to wife and kiddies,

and the second can count his Gulfstream landings on his fingers.”

“Really? I thought you had more landings than that,” Castillo said, as if gen-

uinely surprised.

Leverette smiled and shook his head.

Torine gave Castillo the finger.

“So what did Ellsworth say?” Castillo asked.

“He was charm personified. He said he really couldn’t talk to me then be-

cause he had to meet someone at the Willard, that that would take about an

hour, and would I be free to meet him in the Round Robin after his meeting,

as he would really like to buy me a drink?”

The Round Robin is the ground-floor bar of the Willard InterContinental

Hotel. It usually has two or more lobbyists in it feeding expensive intoxicants

to members of Congress as an expression of their admiration.

“And you went?” Castillo asked.

“I even put on a clean shirt and tie. I was prepared to make any sacrifice for

the OOA. In the end, I was glad I went. Mr. Ellsworth said all kinds of nice

things to me.”

“Such as?”

“He told me—in confidence, of course—how happy Ambassador Montvale

and he are that I’m in OOA, where I can serve as a wise and calming influence


2 4 7

on the brilliant but somewhat impetuous C. Castillo. After all, he said, we all

have the same responsibility to make sure the President is never embarrassed.”

“That sonofabitch!” Castillo grunted, but there was more admiration in his

voice than anger.

“I did admit to having concerns about your impetuousness,” Torine said.

“And then he told me—as if the thought had just come to him—that ‘if some-

thing like that came up,’ perhaps if he and the ambassador knew about it . . .”

“And you of course agreed to call him?”

“I was reluctant at first. He didn’t push. What he did say was that he thought

OOA was going to not only be around for a while, but grow in size and im-

portance. And that being true, it would need someone more senior than a ju-

nior lieutenant colonel . . .”

“An impetuous junior lieutenant colonel?”

Torine nodded. “. . . to run it. A brigadier general, for example. And wasn’t

I eligible for promotion?”

“And then you blushed modestly?”

“Uh-huh. And I think we parted with him thinking I thought he and I had

an understanding.”

“I don’t know if I’m amused or disgusted,” Castillo said. “But his job is to

protect his boss, who, like us, has an obligation to keep the President from being

embarrassed. And I am a junior lieutenant colonel. An impetuous one. He

really would be happier if you had this job.”

“Moot point, Charley. You were there when the President —before the

Finding—asked me if I would have any trouble working for you. I didn’t have

any problem working for you then, and I don’t have one now. Most important,

your name is on the Finding setting up OOA, not mine. The commander-in-

chief has spoken.”

Castillo met his eyes for a moment, but said nothing at first. Then he asked,

“So did you get us this Gulfstream jockey you talked into staying in the

Air Force?”

“He’ll be here at three. I told him to bring a toothbrush, as you would prob-

ably want to go somewhere.”

“As hard as it may be for any of you to believe, there are several minor but

as yet unresolved little problems with my grand master plan. For one thing, I

don’t know where Special Agent Timmons is being held. Or by who. And once

I get the H-models into Uruguay, I don’t know what to do with them. And I

can’t keep them in Shangri-La long. Chief Inspector Ordóñez, I’m sure, has the

local cops keeping an eye on it. Which means that I’m going to have to get

Munz to get his pal Ordóñez to look the other way, briefly. Even if —big ‘if ’—

Ordóñez is willing to do that, he won’t do it for long. Which means I will have

2 4 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

to get the choppers out of Uruguay quickly. Pevsner has at least one estancia in

Argentina. Maybe more than one. If I can find him —another big ‘if ’—maybe

that’ll be the answer.

“And then there’s this small problem I have with the agency.”

“An old problem,” Torine said, “or a new one?”

“The new one. Didn’t Miller tell you?”

“Delchamps did. If you’re talking about this Weiss guy coming here?”

Castillo nodded.

He went on: “I don’t believe for a second, of course, that the agency would

even think of fucking up something I’m doing to protect something that

they’re doing.”

“Perish the thought,” Torine said in agreement. “What the hell is that all

about, Edgar?”

“Which brings us to my little tête-à-tête with the DCI,” Delchamps said.

“The bottom line of which is that he’s either a much better liar than I think he

is, or he doesn’t know what Weiss and Company are up to in Paraguay.”

“How did you come to have a little tête-à-tête with the DCI?” Castillo said.

“Well, there I was rooting around in the bowels of the palace in Langley,

and all of a sudden I looked up and there he was.

“ ‘Ed Delchamps, right?’ he asked, and put out his hand. ‘I’m Jack Powell.’

I picked up right away on that. Here was John Powell, the director of Central

Intelligence, wanting to make kissy-kissy with a dinosaur-slash-pariah, which

I found interesting.

“So I enthusiastically pumped his hand and told him I was really pleased

to meet him, Mr. Director, sir.”

Leverette chuckled deep in his throat.

“So Jack asked me if I had time for a cup of coffee, and I said, ‘I always have

time for you, Mr. Director, sir,’ or words to that effect, thinking we would then

take the elevator to his office, where I would either be charmed or terminated.

“Wrong. He takes me to a little room in the bowels, furnished with chrome-

and-plastic tables and chairs, and a row of machines offering candy bars, snacks,

Coke, and coffee dispensed in plastic cups. It is where the filing cabinet moles

go to rest from their labors.

“One look at who had just dropped in and the room emptied of file clerks

in thirty seconds flat. There we are alone, holding plastic cups of lukewarm, un-

drinkable coffee, two pals-slash-coworkers in the noble, never-ending effort to

develop intel against our enemies.”

“And he told you how happy he was that you were in a position to restrain

the impetuosity of our Charley?” Torine asked.


2 4 9

Delchamps took a sip of his drink, then said: “No. I expected something

like that, but that’s not what happened. What he said was that he understood

there had been problems and disagreements in the past, and that he wasn’t

going to pretend he wished I hadn’t changed my mind about retiring, or that

he was happy I was ‘in the building with an any-area, any-time pass hanging

around my neck, but that’s what’s happened. More important, that’s what

Montvale ordered. . . .’ ”

Delchamps stopped and after a moment went on, “He was even honest

about that. He said something about Montvale having ordered him to let me

in only because the President had told him to, and that Montvale probably

didn’t like it any more than he did. Then he said, ‘But the point is the Presi-

dent gave that order, and I have taken an oath to obey the orders of those ap-

pointed over me, and I don’t intend to violate that oath.’ ”

Delchamps looked at Leverette.

“You don’t know me, Uncle Remus, but these guys do. They’ll tell you that

I am inexperienced in the wicked ways of the world; I have no experience in

guessing who’s lying to me or not; I believe in the good fairy and in the hon-

esty of all politicians and public servants. They will therefore not be surprised

that—in my well-known, all-around naïveté—I believed my new friend Jack.

“And my new friend Jack said that the reason he had come to see me was

to personally ensure the President’s order was being carried out, that there were

those in the company who sometimes decide which orders they will obey and

which they won’t, justifying their actions on the basis that obedience is some-

times not good for the company. ‘I want to make sure that’s not happening here

and now with you.’ ”

“Jesus!” Castillo said.

“He asked me if I had even a suspicion that I was being stiffed by anyone,

if I suspected that anyone was not being completely forthcoming.

“I could have given him a two-page list, but the truth was that I had mod-

estly decided that no one had kept me—they’d tried, of course—from looking

at whatever I wanted to see. And, in their shoes, I probably would have done

the same thing. But nothing, I decided, was to be gained by being the

class snitch.

“So I took a chance. I said, ‘Mr. Director, I have been led to believe you’re

aware that the President has tasked Colonel Castillo with rescuing a DEA agent

who has been kidnapped in Paraguay?’

“To which he replied, ‘I’d rather you called me Jack.’ ”

“Giving him time to think?” Yung asked.

“I don’t think so, Two-Gun,” Delchamps said. “Could be, but I don’t think

2 5 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

so. The next thing he said, almost immediately, after he nodded, was ‘I also hear

the mayor of Chicago was kind enough to send a detective along with him to

help him do so.’ ”

“I’d love to know how the hell he found that out,” Castillo said.

“The point is, Ace, he knew about Paraguay. I wasn’t springing it on him.”

“The point there?” Castillo asked.

“I said, ‘Jack, what I’m really concerned about is that Castillo’s going to go

down there like John Wayne and get this guy back, and in the process upset one

of your apple carts.’

“And he looked surprised, and asked, ‘One of ours?’ and I nodded and he

said, ‘I don’t know of anything we have going on down there that could possi-

bly have a connection with Colonel Castillo’s operation.’

“And then I guess he saw the look on my face, which he could have inter-

preted as surprise or disbelief. He stabbed himself in the chest with his index

finger . . .”—he demonstrated—“. . . and then he said, ‘I’m in the coffee shop

on level three. Please join me.’

“Two minutes later, in walks A. Franklin Lammelle, the deputy DCI for op-

erations. ‘Frank, Edgar here wonders if we have any operation going in Paraguay

or Argentina that in any way could bear on the OOA operation to free the DEA

agent. Or, the other way around, can you think of anything Colonel Castillo

could do that would in any way interfere with anything we’re doing down


“A. Franklin thinks this over very carefully and says, ‘Aside from getting

caught getting the DEA agent back, no, sir.’ And, being the naïve and trusting

soul I am, I believed him, too.”

“Which means?” Torine asked.

Castillo said: “Weiss told us—right, Edgar?—that the station agent down

there is not as intellectually challenged as people think he is. The implication

being that’s on purpose?”

Delchamps nodded.

“And that disinformation,” Delchamps said, “could not have been put in

place without a very good reason to do it, or without the knowledge and per-

mission of the DCI and /or A. Franklin Lammelle.”

“Which means he is either really intellectually challenged, or was set up by

somebody in Langley who didn’t think the DCI had to know.”

“It smells, Ace,” Delchamps said. “And the odor is not coming from my new

friend Jack or Lammelle.”

Castillo raised his eyebrows, then asked, “So what should we do?”

“I want to have a long talk with Alex Darby and the other social pariahs

down there. And their contacts.”





“You mean, you want to go down there?”

Delchamps nodded.


“Jake,” Delchamps said, “what time did you say our new pilot gets




Fort Rucker and the Army Aviation Center

Fort Rucker, Alabama

1105 8 September 2005

“You’re not planning to take that animal in there with you, are you?” Lieutenant

Colonel Randolph Richardson III inquired of Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo

as Castillo slid open the side door of the van to let out Max.

“I can’t leave him in the van in this heat,” Castillo said. “And General Cren-

shaw likes him.”

Castillo was more than a little pleased when they marched into Crenshaw’s

office and saluted. General Crenshaw returned the salute, said, “Stand at ease,

gentlemen,” then clapped his hands together, bent over, and called, “Hey, Max!

C’mere, boy!”

Max walked up to him, sat down, offered his paw, then allowed for his ears

to be scratched.

“That’s one hell of a dog, Castillo,” General Crenshaw said, then added,

“Please sit down, gentlemen. Can I get you a cup of coffee?”

“No, thank you, sir,” Colonel Richardson said.

“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, sir,” Colonel Castillo said.

General Crenshaw raised his voice. “Two coffees, please. Black, right,


“Yes, sir.”

“Both black.”

Castillo thought, Righteous, you ass-kissing sonofabitch, you’re actually won-

dering if it’s too late to change your mind about the coffee.

If the general is having some, it’s obviously the thing for you to do.

“Okay,” General Crenshaw said. “What can I do for you this morning,


“Sir, I’m here to make my manners. I’m moving down the road, and

it’s likely I won’t be back. I just wanted to express my thanks for all your

support . . .”

2 5 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Crenshaw waved deprecatingly.

“. . . and especially, sir, to let you know how much I appreciate everything

Colonel Richardson has done for us. He’s really done a first-class job.”

That’s true, even if he took elaborate precautions to cover his ass every time he

did anything.

Crenshaw’s secretary delivered two china mugs of coffee.

“You’ll notice, Colonel Castillo, that I am not asking how things are going,”

Crenshaw said, “only if they are going the way you want them to.”

“Exactly the way I hoped they would, sir. Colonel Davies sent his S-4

down here yesterday to get the H-models off your books and onto those of

the 160th—”

“From which they will drop into the sea, never to be seen again?” Cren-

shaw asked, jokingly, then quickly added, “I probably shouldn’t have said


“Into the sea”?

Jesus Christ! Where did he get that?

If he knows about the Ronald Reagan, we’re compromised before we get started.

Easy, Castillo!

That was a figure of speech, nothing more. He doesn’t know about the

Ronald Reagan.

“I don’t know about them dropping into the sea, sir, but they might wind

up on eBay.”

Crenshaw laughed.

“I don’t mean to pry, Castillo,” he said. “Yes, I guess I do. But I understand

the ground rules.”

“Sir, I regret that . . .”

Crenshaw held up his hand to shut him off.

“You’re obeying your orders, Colonel, I understand that.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“What’s going to happen now, sir,” Castillo went on, “is that the choppers

and their crews will stay here until the word comes for them to move.”

“Will that come through me or . . . ?”

“Directly, sir. I have a communicator here, as you know—”

“The man from DirecTV.”

“Yes, sir. The execute order will pass through him to Major Ward, the se-

nior pilot. And then they will leave, taking everything with them, and leaving

nothing behind but their thanks and the hope that nobody even knew they

were here.”

“Is there going to be a problem with that, Richardson?” General Crenshaw





asked. “Has anyone been extra curious about what’s going on in the Hanchey


“I don’t anticipate any problems in that area, General,” Richardson


Crenshaw looked at Castillo and asked, “What about my putting out a dis-

creet word that no one is to gossip about what’s going on at Hanchey?”

“Sir, I appreciate the offer, but I suggest it would be counterproductive;

it might call attention to the Hanchey hangar. We have put out the disin-

formation—when the question ‘What are you guys doing here?’ comes up at

Happy Hour—that the choppers are being prepared for use as Opposing Force

aircraft at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. We think that’s credible.”

Crenshaw nodded his agreement.

“You think of everything, don’t you, Castillo?”

“Sir, I think of a lot, but there’s always something important that gets right

past me.”

Crenshaw bent over again, and Max gave him his paw again.

“So long, Max,” Crenshaw said. “Meeting you has been an experi-

ence . . .”—he stood up as he glanced at Castillo—“. . . and so has been meet-

ing your boss.”

Castillo put his virtually untouched coffee mug down and stood up.

Crenshaw put out his hand to him. “Good luck in whatever you’re up

to, Colonel.”

“Thank you very much, sir. Permission to withdraw, sir?”

Crenshaw nodded.

Castillo and Richardson came to attention and saluted, Crenshaw returned

it, then Castillo and Richardson marched out of his office. Max followed.


Aboard Gulfstream III N379LT

33,000 Feet Above the Atlantic Ocean

Approximately 100 Nautical Miles East of

Cancún, Mexico

1630 8 September 2005

Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo couldn’t move his legs. He was up to his

knees in some kind of muck.

Where the hell am I? What’s going on?

He opened his eyes and found himself sitting in the rear-facing seat

2 5 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

against the right bulkhead separating the cockpit from the passenger compart-

ment. And saw the reason he had the nightmare in which he couldn’t move

his legs.

Max was having a little snooze, too, and had chosen to take it in the space

between the rear-facing seat and the forward-facing seat, and to rest his weary

head on Castillo’s feet.

“You big bastard, how did you get in there?”

Max raised his head just enough to look at Castillo—and for Castillo to free

his feet—and then laid it down again.

Castillo swung his feet into the aisle, unfastened his seat belt, stood up, and

walked down the aisle to meet the call of nature.

He saw that he and Max were not the only ones having a little snooze.

Davidson was sitting in the rear-facing seat across the aisle, snoring softly.

Delchamps and Leverette were stretched out on the couches, sound asleep.

Yung and Neidermeyer were awake, talking softly, in two of the aisle-facing

seats, and Bradley was in one of the forward-facing seats in the rear of the fuse-

lage, looking as if sleep was just around the corner.

When he came out of the toilet, he thought—as he often did—of the fat

lady on a transatlantic flight whose rear end had made a perfect seal around the

toilet seat, something she found out when she flushed the device, and the vac-

uum evacuation system kept her glued to it for several hours.

He laughed, then helped himself to a cup of coffee and carried it up the aisle

to the cockpit.

“How’s it going?” Castillo said to the pilots.

“Our leader is awake,” Torine said. “Look busy, Captain!”

Captain Richard M. Sparkman, USAF, glanced over his shoulder and smiled

at Castillo, then pointed to a GPS screen in the instrument panel.

“There we are,” he said. “About a hundred miles off Cancún. We should

make Quito in four-fifteen, give or take.”

“There’s one of those mounted on the bulkhead in the cabin,” Castillo said.

“Our benefactor knowing that your revered leader likes to keep an eye on the


Torine gave him the finger.

Castillo smiled, then did the mental math.

That’ll put us in Quito just before eleven. Figure an hour for the fuel, a piss stop,

and a sandwich, giving us wheels-up out of there at midnight. And then another

five-thirty or six to Buenos Aires, putting us in there about half past five, or six in

the morning. Which will be half past three—or four—local time.

Then he had another thought:


2 5 5

Which means there will be almost nothing doing at Jorge Newbery when

we land.

People will be curious. . . .

“Jake, how about going into Ezeiza? Jorge Newbery will be deserted at half

past three in the morning. Ezeiza starts getting the FedEx and UPS planes and

some of the European arrivals very early. Maybe we can sort of not be noticed.”

“You’re right, but they expect us at Jorge Newbery.”

“You are forgetting our new commo equipment.”

“I stand corrected,” Torine said. “And I will get on the horn just as soon as

I’m sure they’re all asleep. I don’t see why Dick and I should be the only ones

in this group awake all night.”

“Fly carefully and smoothly, children,” Castillo said. “Your leader is going

to be sleeping.”

Torine gave him the finger again.

Castillo went back to his seat, this time carefully lowering his feet onto

Max’s chest. Max opened his eyes for a moment, then closed them again.

Castillo sat for a moment, then said, “Oh, shit!”

He then gently tapped on Max with his feet. Max raised his head.

“Sorry, pal,” Castillo said. “You have to get up.”

Max didn’t budge, although he continued to look at Castillo.

“Get up, damn it!”

Max didn’t move.

Castillo swung his legs into the aisle, got up, and took a few steps down the

cabin aisle.

“Come on, boy!”

No response.

Castillo clapped his hands together. Once. Twice. A third time.

Max, not without effort, got to his feet and backed into the aisle.

“Good boy!”

Castillo pushed Max backward up the aisle until he had access to the drawer

under his seat. He bent over and pulled it open. Max took two steps and licked

Castillo’s face.

“Sonofabitch!” Castillo said, and, pushing at Max to back up, realized the

dog probably thought he was playing.

Castillo reached into the drawer and pulled his laptop from it.

Max kissed him again.

“Aw, goddammit!”

“I think he likes you, Colonel,” Sergeant Neidermeyer said.

Castillo looked up at Neidermeyer.

2 5 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“This is one of those times when I wish I was not a field-grade officer,”

Castillo said.


“If we were both sergeants, I could tell you to take a flying fuck at a rolling

doughnut,” Castillo said.

“With all due respect, Colonel, sir, it is not the sergeant’s fault that the an-

imal seems to like you, sir.”

“Does the sergeant have something on what is loosely known as his mind?”

“Yes, sir. The sergeant thought the colonel might be interested in some

photographs the sergeant took in Louisiana, or, more precisely, Colonel, sir, as

we were flying over Mississippi and Louisiana, sir.”

He handed Castillo a large manila envelope.

Castillo took it from him and removed the photographs. There were twenty

or more eight-by-ten-inch crisp color prints. Just about all of them were pho-

tographs of the hurricane damage they had seen from the air.

“Nice, Jamie,” Castillo said. “What’s the chances of getting a set of these?”

“I made those for you,” Neidermeyer said.

“Thanks, Jamie,” Castillo said. “I appreciate that.”

He was now nearly at the end of the stack of photographs.

The one he had on top of the stack now was of him and the Richardson

boy. They had both turned in their seats to look into the rear of the airplane

Neidermeyer must have done something, called something, to get us to turn and look

at him— Castillo was turned in his seat to his right, and the Richardson boy to

his left, the result being their heads were close together.

“Nice kid,” Neidermeyer said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think he

was yours.”


“He’s got your eyes, Colonel,” Neidermeyer said.

“I have so far been spared the joys of matrimony and—so far as I know—

of parenthood.”

“The eyes, Colonel. They’re as blue as yours. That’s what I mean.”

No, he doesn’t look like me.

I’m blond and fair-skinned.

This kid is olive-skinned. He could almost be Latin.

He looks like Fernando looked the first time I saw him. We were about as old

then as this kid.

Holy Christ!

Calm down!

How could Richardson’s kid possibly be mine?

Castillo suddenly felt a chill down his spine. He had goose bumps.


2 5 7

Dumb fucking question!

“Well, he’s a nice kid. I wish he was mine. But he’s not, obviously,” Castillo

said, and put the photographs back in the envelope. “Thanks, Jamie.”

“Happy to do it, Colonel,” Jamie Neidermeyer said, and walked back to

his seat.

Castillo picked up his laptop from the seat, sat down, tucked the envelope

of photographs under the laptop, and then opened the computer.

He clicked on a file titled CHKLIST.

A screen full of gibberish appeared.

Why did I bother to encrypt this? No one could make sense out of it if it was

on a billboard.

He held down the CTRL key, typed “DEC,” and the file decrypted.

The gibberish was replaced by a screen more or less in English.



AV ???????




OR ???












The list of numbered entries—Castillo’s system of keeping Things To Do

notes numbered according to what he considered was their priority at the

moment—ran off the computer screen.

2 5 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

He scrolled slowly down the list, reading each one. There were twenty-


He scrolled back up the list to (1). He would deal with that first.

The translation of (1) was:

What about the aircraft carrier USS Ronald R



Is it going to be available?

When is it going to be available?

Where will it be when/if it is made available?

What will its Estimated Time of Arrival off of Uruguay—or

someplace else—be?

He made the necessary corrections based on his current knowledge.

General McNab had sent Colonel Kingston to Tampa International Airport,

where they had taken on fuel and gone through the customs and immigra-

tion formalities.

Kingston had told him the USS Ronald Reagan had been ordered through

Navy channels to be prepared to receive four (possibly as many as six) UH-1H

helicopters that were engaged in a clandestine operation classified Top Secret.

The Task Group Commander and the captain of the Ronald Reagan would be

advised when and where the helicopters were to be brought aboard. The senior

officer of the flight detachment would advise the Task Group Commander

and the captain when and where the helicopters were to be launched from

the Reagan.

The cover story for the operation was that the helicopters were being fer-

ried to an unspecified Latin American country as part of a military assistance

program. In this connection, the Ronald Reagan was to be prepared to strip the

helicopters of their existing U.S. Army paint scheme and identification num-

bers and repaint them in a paint scheme and numbers to be furnished by the

senior officer of the flight detachment.

Castillo deleted the question marks after RRAC??? as there was no longer

any question that the USS Ronald Reagan would be the means by which the he-

licopters would go to South America, and he deleted AV??? because he now

knew that the ship would be available.

He left the question marks after When??? and Where??? and ETA U??? as

he and Colonel Kingston had agreed there was no sense in guessing when the

choppers would go aboard the Reagan, or where, or when the Reagan would be


2 5 9

off the coast of Uruguay. The choppers would be flown as soon as possible from

Rucker to SOCOM at MacDill, and from MacDill to the Reagan. They would

have a communicator with them. He would be in touch with both Castillo and

McNab—and Kingston and everybody else with one of the AFC radios—and

his information would be up to date.

Castillo deleted Or??? because that entry asked at what other location the

choppers could be flown off the Ronald Reagan if they found for whatever rea-

son that they could not do it off the coast of Uruguay. That was settled. Off

the coast of Uruguay was the only place it could be done.

Castillo turned to (2), the translation of which was:

Other Options?

Maybe C-5

Maybe C-141s

How many 141s would be necessary?

Where could they land?

Now that the Ronald Reagan was going to ferry the choppers, it was no

longer necessary to give consideration to using a C-5 Galaxy or two—or more—

of its little brothers, the C-141 Starlifter transport aircraft, to get them to South

America. That would have posed all kinds of problems—including coming up

with a cover story to hide where a C-5, one of the largest aircraft in the world,

was headed and why.

Castillo deleted all of (2) and turned to (3), the translation of which


What about Aleksandr Pevsner?

Where is he?

Does he have any connection with these drug people?

Where’s his Bell Ranger helicopter?

He renumbered (3) to (2), then shook his head and sighed audibly.

Then he held down the CTRL key, typed “ENC,” and thus encrypted the

file. He saved the file, then closed the top of the laptop.

He took the manila envelope containing the photographs from beneath the

2 6 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

computer. He pulled the image of Randolph Richardson IV and himself from

the envelope.

He looked at it.

Problems don’t go away by ignoring them.

And, oh boy, do I have a doozie of a problem here.

Perhaps unconsciously, perhaps by habit, he raised the lid of the laptop and

began to deal with this problem as he did with most others with many facets.

That was to say, as a Staff Study.

But no clever little abbreviations this time.

I can’t afford to fuck this up.

He pushed the NEW key and started to type.


























2 6 1




























TOLD HIM?????)









2 6 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N






DOESN’T KNOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



HE IS???









Castillo stopped typing, looked at what he had written, ran the cursor over

everything to highlight it, and then put his finger on the DELETE key.

This is not going to go away by sending it into cyberspace!

Then he held down the CTRL key, then typed “ENC.” He saved the now

encrypted file as FATHERHOOD and turned off the laptop.



Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Ezeiza

Buenos Aires, Argentina

0525 9 September 2005

Colonel Jacob Torine, USAF, turned from the left seat in the cockpit of Gulf-

stream III N379LT toward Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo, USA, who was

standing in the doorway, and pointed his index finger toward the passenger


Torine ordered, “Sit.”

Colonel Castillo complied with the order.

Captain Richard M. Sparkman, USAF, suppressing a smile, then retarded

the throttles a tad, waited two seconds more, then greased the aircraft onto

the runway.

“Nice,” Colonel Torine said to Captain Sparkman over the privacy of

the intercom. “Your other option, of course, was coming in hard and/or

short or long and having Charley remind you of it for the rest of your nat-

ural life.”

“What kind of a pilot is he?”

“If you quote me, I will deny it, but he’s one of the naturals. Get him to

take you for a chopper ride sometime. You’ll feel like one of those soaring swal-

lows that fly from Capistrano to Plaza de Mayo here in B. A.”

“Stupid question, I guess,” Sparkman said. “I saw all those DFCs.”

“Three of them,” Torine said. “Each for doing something with a helicopter

that the manufacturer will tell you is aerodynamically impossible.”

Ezeiza ground control directed them to the far left of the terminal building,

where ground handlers parked them between two McDonnell Douglas

MD-11 cargo aircraft, one belonging to FedEx and the other to Lufthansa,

which made the Gulfstream look very small indeed.

“Passengers may now feel free to move about the aircraft,” Torine called over

2 6 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

the cabin speakers. “Please remember to take your personal items with you. That

includes ravenous bears masquerading as lapdogs.”

Castillo reappeared in the cockpit doorway.

“How do you want to handle this, Charley?” Torine asked. “Use the valet

parking? Or have us stick with it and catch up to you later?”

“There’s nothing on here of interest, except the AFC radios, and we’ll take

them with us. Let’s stick together.”

“And the weapons?” Torine argued.

“No problem, right, until we try to take them off the airplane? Just

leave them.”

“I will now go deal with the authorities,” Torine said. “When do I tell them

we’ll need it?”

“On an hour’s notice,” Castillo said.

“Remember, we’re here to fish,” Torine said.

Castillo knew that that had come from Darby when Torine had radioed him

their arrival time at Ezeiza. Darby had said, “The purpose of your visit is sport-

fishing on the Pilcomayo River.”

Max took one look at the customs officials at the foot of the stair door and de-

cided he didn’t like them. He was, however, now on a leash—Castillo had

bought in Quito a hefty woven leather souvenir lariat for that purpose—and

thus didn’t pose a real problem. Still, the customs officials, smiling nervously,

gave Max a wide berth as he towed Castillo to the nose gear.

Inside the terminal, when Castillo’s group tried to pass through customs and

immigration, there was another problem with Max. They were told that the of-

ficial charged with ensuring that live animals entering the country had the

proper documentation—in Max’s case, a certificate from a doctor of veterinary

medicine stating he had the proper rabies and other inoculations—had not yet

come to work. They would have to wait until he showed up.

Castillo then saw, at about the same time Delchamps did, the two burly men

in civilian clothing leaning against the wall across the baggage carousel from

them, trying not to conceal their interest in the newly arrived American sport-


They might as well have had COP tattooed on their foreheads.

When Castillo locked eyes with Delchamps, it was obvious they were both

wondering if the official-who-had-not-yet-come-to-work was really late, or

whether this was some kind of stall.

Max was not concerned. He had for some reason changed his mind and de-

cided he liked the customs officers who wouldn’t let him into the country, and


2 6 5

had offered them his paw. They had responded by offering him a thick rope to

tug on, and he now was dragging two of them across the baggage room.

Castillo was somewhat concerned that when it came to inspecting their

luggage there might be special interest in the AFC satellite telephones in the

suitcases carried by Lester Bradley and Jamie Neidermeyer.

There was a cover story ready, of course—that they were ordinary satellite

telephones necessary to keep Señor Castillo in touch with the world head-

quarters of the Lorimer Charitable & Benevolent Fund in Washington, D.C.—

but that sounded fishy to even Señor Castillo, and there might be problems later

if the customs officers decided they had best make a record of the entry of the

radios into Argentina so that they would leave the country when Señor Castillo

did, and not be sold in Argentina without the appropriate taxes being paid.

The problem did not come up. By the time the official charged with mak-

ing sure Max was healthy showed up a half hour later, Max had so charmed the

customs officials—mostly by being stronger than the two of them tugging on

the rope—that as soon as the official had stamped his vaccination certificate they

waved them past the luggage X-ray machines and through the doors to the

lobby for arriving passengers.

There were no familiar faces waiting for them. But Torine nudged Castillo

and nodded toward a man waving a sign with “Herr Gossinger” written on it.

Castillo discreetly signaled the others to wait, then walked over to the man.

Before Castillo could open his mouth, the man with the sign greeted him,

in German: “Herr Munz welcomes you to Argentina, Herr Gossinger. He awaits

you and your party at the estancia.”

“Danke schoen,” Castillo replied, and motioned for the others to follow him.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the two cops who had been in bag-

gage claim were now in the terminal, and obviously about to follow him and

the others wherever they went.

The man with the sign led them out of the terminal to a small yellow Mer-

cedes bus with ARGENTOURS painted on its doors. As the driver, eyeing Max

warily, stuffed their luggage into it and the two cops watched the process, Torine

discreetly nudged Castillo again, this time indicating a BMW with ordinary Ar-

gentine license plates.

Castillo saw Alfredo Munz behind the wheel. Alex Darby, the “commercial

attaché” of the United States embassy, was sitting next to him. Neither Darby

nor Munz gave any sign of recognition.

There were two people in the backseat of the BMW whom Castillo

couldn’t identify.

Not surprising. I can barely see Darby and Munz through those darkened


2 6 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

But what the hell is this all about?

When the yellow Mercedes bus pulled away from the terminal, Munz’s

BMW followed it, and when they had left the airport property and were on the

highway headed toward downtown Buenos Aires, Munz passed the bus and

pulled in front.

That wasn’t surprising either, but a minute or so later, Corporal Lester

Bradley made his way with some difficulty through the crowded bus to kneel

in the aisle beside Castillo.

“Colonel, I may be wrong, but I thought I should bring to your attention

the possibility that we’re being followed.”

Yung heard him. He said, “It’s those two cop types who were eyeing us in

the terminal.”

Castillo looked out over the luggage stacked in the back of the bus. There

behind them were four men in a blue Peugeot sedan.

“And two of their friends,” Castillo said.

“What’s going on, Colonel?” Yung asked.

“I think they’re friendlies, bringing up our rear. Munz and Darby are in that

BMW in front of us. As to what’s going on, I haven’t a clue.”

Ten minutes later, perhaps five seconds after Castillo had decided they were en

route to the safe house in Pilar—they were on the sort of parkway that connects

the downtown Buenos Aires–Ezeiza autopista with the Acceso Norte, which

turns into Ruta 8—the BMW ahead of them suddenly turned onto an exit road

and the bus, tires squealing, followed them.

When Castillo looked out the back, he saw that the Peugeot behind them

had come to a stop in the middle of the exit road, effectively blocking anyone

who might be following.

They drove three blocks into what looked like a working-class neighbor-

hood—rows of small, wall-sharing, single-family homes built of masonry, bro-

ken only by buildings that could have been small factories, or garages, or

warehouses—then made another screeching turn, and abruptly slowed before

making a left turn off the street and rolling through an opened overhead door

into a three-story building.

A stocky man wearing a pistol shoulder holster was standing just inside the

door, and as soon as the bus was inside, he pulled on a chain mechanism that

quickly lowered a corrugated steel door.

The room had been dimly lit. Now fluorescent lights flickered on, filling

the area with a bright, harsh light.


2 6 7

They could see they were in some kind of garage. Vehicles of all descriptions—

twenty-five or thirty, perhaps more, including several taxis and a nearly new

Mercedes-Benz 220—were parked closely together, noses out, against the walls.

There was a ramp at the end of the room leading upward.

“Is this where we go fishing, Colonel?” Chief Warrant Officer Five Colin

Leverette asked.

The bus driver opened the door.

Munz stuck his head into the bus.

“We change vehicles here,” he announced.

“What’s going on, Alfredo?” Castillo asked in German.

“In a moment, please, Karl,” Munz replied in German, then said in Eng-

lish, “Would everybody please get off the bus?”

Max needed no further encouragement. Munz ducked out of his way at the

last possible second.

Max ran around the area —In a strange gait, Castillo noticed, almost as if he’s

running on his toes. He’s hunting, that’s what he’s doing. I’ll be damned if he didn’t

sense that just about all us warriors of legendary icy courage on the bus were scared

shitless by this mysterious little joyride— found nothing that worried him and re-

turned to Munz, where he sat down and offered him his paw.

“Max says it’s safe to get off the bus, fellas,” Davidson said.

“Don’t laugh at him,” Castillo said. “Remember the last time he went look-

ing for something in a garage?”

“Who’s laughing?” Davidson said agreeably.

Everybody piled off the bus.

The driver went to the rear and started unloading the luggage. Two more

large men who looked like cops —the ones who had been in the backseat of Munz’s

BMW, Castillo decided—moved quickly to help him.

Castillo caught Munz’s eye and wordlessly asked who they were and what

was going on.

“I’ll explain this all in a minute,” Munz said. “We’re pressed for time. Lester,

could you find Acceso Norte from here?”

“Yes, sir,” Corporal Bradley replied. “I am fairly familiar with the area.”

“Yung?” Munz asked.

“Yeah. I know my way around B.A.”

“Karl, would it be all right with you if Lester and Yung drove everybody not

needed here out to Nuestra Pequeña Casa?”

“Who’s ‘needed here,’ Alfredo?” Castillo asked.

“Edgar and Jake should be in on this, Charley,” Alex Darby said.

“Okay,” Castillo said. “Are we going to need a radio right now?”

2 6 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Darby shook his head.

“Okay, load the cars that Mr. Darby’s going to give you,” Castillo or-

dered. “Neidermeyer, if you ride with Two-Gun, we won’t have both radios

in one car. Otherwise, suit yourselves. Take all the luggage. Edgar and Jake,

you’ll stay.”

They nodded.

Two minutes later, the corrugated steel door clanked noisily up. Yung drove a

Volkswagen Golf out of the building. The door came clanking quickly down

again, to rise two minutes later to permit the exit of a Jeep Grand Cherokee with

Bradley driving.

When the corrugated steel door had crashed noisily down again, one of the

cops who had helped with the luggage raised his hand toward the ramp.

“Please,” he said in English.

They started to follow him up the ramp. Max ran past him without diffi-

culty. The others had a little trouble. The ramp was quite steep, not very wide,

and had six-inch-wide anti-wheel-slip bumps running across it.

At the next level, they found themselves in an area much like the level they

had just left. Vehicles of all descriptions were parked tightly together against

the walls.

Max was standing in the middle, looking at a brown uniformed gendarmería

sergeant sitting on a folding chair with an Uzi in his lap. The gendarme sat in

front of a steel door in an interior concrete-block wall.

As the man led them across the open area toward the door, the gendarme,

eyeing Max warily, got quickly out of his chair and had the door open by the

time the man got to it.

The man went inside, and there was again the flicker of fluorescent lights

coming on.

“Please,” he said once more, as he waved them inside.

Max trotted in first.

The room was dominated by an old desk—once grand and elegant—before

which sat a simple, sturdy, rather battered oak conference table. There were eight

chairs at the table. The wall behind the desk was covered with maps of Argentina

in various scales, including an enormous one of Buenos Aires Province. Along

both walls were tables holding computers, facsimile machines, telephones, a cof-

fee maker, and some sort of communications radios. All of it looked old.

“Please,” the man said again, this time an invitation for everyone to

sit down.

“That will be all, thank you,” Munz said to the man.


2 6 9

“Sí, mi coronel,” the man said, and left the room, closing the door be-

hind him.

Max lay down with his head between his paws and looked at the closed


“Okay, Alfredo,” Castillo said. “What’s going on, starting with where

are we?”

“We have a law of confiscation in Argentina, Karl,” Munz said. “This build-

ing was being used as a warehouse for cocaine and marijuana; it was seized. And

so were the vehicles you saw. Comandante Liam Duffy of the Gendarmería Na-

cional now uses it, unofficially, as an office and base of operations.”

“He’s the guy who the DEA guy was on his way to see when he was

snatched?” Delchamps asked.

Munz nodded.

“So what are we doing here?” Delchamps went on. “And who are all the guys

with guns?”

“Comandante Duffy thought there was a good chance that you would be

at some risk at the airport. . . .”

“How did he know we would be at the airport?” Torine asked.

“He was with us at the house when you radioed saying you were going to

Ezeiza instead of Jorge Newbery,” Darby offered.

“You had this guy in Nuestra Pequeña Casa?” Castillo snapped at Alex

Darby. “That’s supposed to be our safe house!”

“A lot of things have happened, Charley,” Darby replied.

“Obviously,” Castillo said, thickly sarcastic.

“Easy, Ace,” Delchamps said, then looked at Darby. “Like what, Alex? What

has happened?”

“The bottom line is that Chief Inspector José Ordóñez, of the Interior Po-

lice Division of the Uruguayan Policía Nacional, is back in the game. . . .”

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo exploded. “How the hell—?”

“Let him finish, Ace,” Delchamps said reasonably.

Castillo glowered at him but said nothing.

“If I may . . . ,” Alfredo Munz began, and when Castillo motioned impa-

tiently for him to go on, Munz picked up the explanation: “The day I came back

here, I called José Ordóñez. For several reasons. One, to thank him for what he

had done for us. And to tell him that I was back. And, frankly, the primary rea-

son I called was to ask him how well he knew Duffy. I knew we had to deal with

Duffy, and I knew Duffy only casually. And I knew Duffy would know that I

had been ‘retired’ from SIDE, and was afraid that he wouldn’t want to have any-

thing to do with me.”

“And?” Castillo said.

2 7 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“José told me that Duffy had come to Uruguay to see him, and that as a re-

sult of the interesting conversation he’d had with him, he had called Bob How-

ell and asked him how Duffy could get in touch with me. And, more important,

with you.”

Robert Howell, the “cultural attaché” of the U.S. embassy in Montevideo,

was in fact the CIA station chief.

“And what did Howell tell him?” Castillo asked carefully.

“The truth—or what he thought was the truth. That both you and I were

in the United States, but that he would relay the message.”

“And what did Howell do?”

“He got on the next plane to Buenos Aires and came to see me,” Darby said.

“So I took him out to Nuestra Pequeña Casa to see Alfredo to see if he had any

idea what this was all about.”

“Did you?” Castillo asked.

Munz shook his head.

“I don’t think we were in the house thirty minutes,” Darby said, “when

Duffy showed up at the front door.”

“The front door, or at the gate?” Castillo asked.

“The front door,” Darby said. “Obviously, he had people on me or

Howell—more likely both—and they followed us from the embassy. And no

country club security guard is going to tell a comandante of the gendarmería

he can’t come in.”

“What did he want?” Castillo asked.

“To talk to me,” Munz said. “But especially to you.”

“What about?”

“I wanted to show you some photographs, Colonel,” a voice behind Cas-

tillo said. It sounded not only American, but as if the speaker were a native of


Castillo turned to see a tall, muscular, very fair-skinned man with a full head

of curly red hair. He was in the process of taking off his suit jacket, under

which he carried in a shoulder holster what looked like a full-frame Model

1911A1 Colt .45 semiautomatic pistol.

Max was now on his feet, his head cocked to one side, looking at the new-


So you’re Liam Duffy, Castillo thought.

And how long have you been outside listening to this conversation, Señor


Duffy walked around to behind the ornate desk. He hung his jacket on the

back of his chair, sat down, and then announced, “I am Comandante Duffy, of

the Gendarmería Nacional.”


2 7 1

He really does sound like he’s from Brooklyn.

Where the hell did that come from?

“How do you do, Comandante?” Castillo said. “Am I to thank you for the

protection we’ve had since we walked into the terminal at Ezeiza?”

“Alfredo, who I recently learned is a very dear friend of a very dear friend

of mine in Uruguay—José Ordóñez—which makes him a very dear friend of

mine, thinks we might work together, Colonel. With that in mind, it was in

the interest of the gendarmería to guard you and your men against a threat I

don’t think you knew existed.”

“What kind of a threat?”

“Possibly being shot, or perhaps being strangled.”

“Now, who would want to do something like that to innocent tourists who

came to your beautiful country to fly-fish its rivers of trophy trout?”

“The same people who did this, Colonel,” Duffy said.

He tossed a large manila envelope—very skillfully, it landed right where

Castillo was sitting—across his desk.

Castillo took from the envelope a thick sheath of color prints. They had

been printed on ordinary paper, but the quality told him they had been taken

with a high-quality digital camera.

He took a quick look at the first one, then passed it to Delchamps, and sig-

naled that he was to pass it to Torine and the others when he had seen it.

It showed a bullet-riddled body of a man in a brown, military-type uniform.

He was lying on his back, eyes open, in a dark pool of blood, on what was prob-

ably the gravel shoulder of a macadam country road.

There were, in all, eight photographs of the body. Several fairly close pho-

tographs of the head and torso showed the head was distorted. It had been shot

several times at close range, including, Castillo judged, once in the mouth.

There were more signs of entrance wounds in the body than Castillo could con-

veniently count, which strongly suggested the use of a submachine gun, with

what looked like an entirely unnecessary coup de grâce shot in the mouth.

Next came as many photographs of a second gendarme. He had died of

strangulation. A blue metal garrote had been so tightly drawn against his throat

that it had cut into the flesh; he had lost a substantial quantity of blood before

he had died.

Then there were glossy photographs of two gendarmes sitting in a chair.

Both had their wrists handcuffed and showed signs of having been beaten.

Castillo passed along the last of the pictures and the envelope to Delchamps,

then looked at Duffy. Duffy locked eyes with him, and Castillo sensed it would

not be in his best interests to break the eye contact first.

Castillo didn’t look away until Munz touched his arm with the envelope,

2 7 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

now again thick with pictures. He took it from Munz, stood up, and walked

to Duffy’s desk. He put the envelope on the desk, then walked back to his

chair, sat down, and looked at Duffy again.

“My gendarmes were manning road checks when the hijos de puta did this

to them,” Duffy then said. “The gendarmería sometimes sets up road checks

at random sites and sometimes at sites where we have information about where

drugs will be coming down the highway. In both cases here, we had had infor-

mation that drugs would be coming down two particular highways, which hap-

pen to be some seventy kilometers apart.”

Duffy paused a moment, then continued: “Killing and kidnapping gen-

darmes is very unusual. Criminals almost never kill members of the gen-

darmería, and never before have kidnapped any of them.”

“Why is that, Comandante?” Delchamps asked softly.

“Because they know it is unacceptable,” Munz said.

“What does that mean, ‘unacceptable’?” Castillo demanded.

“It means the gendarmes will take revenge,” Munz said. “Killing anyone

they suspect may have been involved.”

He let that sink in for a moment, then went on: “The gendarmería oper-

ates all over Argentina, very often in remote areas and with very few men. They

usually operate in two-man teams, and sometimes alone. They are not attacked,

because the price for doing so is too high. When this happened—”

“When did this happen?” Castillo interrupted. “Before or after Timmons

was snatched?”

“A week after Timmons was taken,” Munz said. “The day—or the day

after—Max found Lorimer in the bushes at Nuestra Pequeña Casa.”

“The gendarmería, Colonel,” Duffy said, “prides itself on always getting its

man. It was not wise to do what these hijos de puta did, and I asked myself why

these narcos had.

“The first conclusion obviously to be drawn was that they decided to send

the gendarmería the same kind of message they have been sending your DEA

people in Asunción—that they will not tolerate interference with their business.

“Then I asked myself why they had suddenly decided to do this. What

came to mind there was that they were about to start significantly increasing

the flow of product to the point where so much money would be involved that

they would think that protecting the shipments was worth the risk of behav-

ing toward the gendarmería in a manner heretofore considered unacceptable.

“If this were true, I reasoned, it was possible—even likely—that my men

were targeted by the narcos, rather than it being that they simply had stopped

a narco truck and that the narcos had resisted. If the latter were the case, then

both men would have been killed—no witnesses—not one of them taken away.


2 7 3

“That posed a number of questions, including how they had learned—that

is, who had told them—where the road checks would be. I had some ideas about

that, but nothing that I could prove. The most kind was that the hijos de puta

offered the farmhands, the peones, in the area a little gift if they would telephone

a number to report where we had set up a road check. Less kind was the pos-

sibility that the narcos offered a little gift to the officers of the Policía Federal

in the area to do the same thing.

“But the major question in my mind was what had happened to cause the

sudden increase in actions by the hijos de puta that they had to know were not

only unacceptable to the gendarmería but would also call attention to them,

which was also not in their best interests.

“At that point, I remembered hearing some gossip about something inter-

esting that had happened in Uruguay. It sounded incredible, but I decided it

was worth looking into. What I had heard was that a drug deal had gone wrong

on an estancia in Tacuarembó Province in central Uruguay. According to this

story, six men, all dressed in black, like characters in a children’s movie, had been

found shot to death.

“I thought that checking out the story would be a simple matter. José Or-

dóñez is more than a professional associate with whom I have worked closely

over the years. As I said, we are dear friends. I thought all I would have to do

would be to telephone José—unofficially, of course; I have José’s private num-

ber and he has mine—and ask him what there was to this incredible story. And

also to ask him if he had noticed any sudden increase in the drug shipments

into and out of his country.

“So I called him. When I asked him what had happened in Tacuarembó

Province, he didn’t answer directly. He said that it had been too long since we

had seen one another, and that we should really try to have lunch very soon.

“Well, the very next morning, I was on the Buquebus to Montevideo,”

Duffy went on. “Tourist class, as I was paying for it myself. Getting an official

authorization to travel to Uruguay is difficult, takes time, and then only results

in a voucher for a tourist-class seat. Is it that way in the U.S. Army, Colonel?”

“Very much so, Comandante. Getting the U.S. Army to pay for travel is like

pulling teeth.”

“That, then, raises the question of who is paying for the helicopter in which

you have been flying all over down here.”

Castillo looked Duffy square in the eyes and said evenly, “I have no idea

what you’re talking about, Comandante.”

“If we are going to work together, Colonel, we are going to have to tell each

other the truth.”

The last three words of the sentence came out: udder da trute.

2 7 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo couldn’t restrain a smile.

“You find that amusing?” Duffy asked.

“Colonel Munz didn’t tell me you were from Brooklyn, Comandante.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You have a Brooklyn accent, Comandante.”

Duffy, visibly annoyed, looked at Munz.

Munz gestured that he didn’t understand, and then turned to Castillo and

said, “I don’t understand either, Karl.”

“Okay,” Delchamps said, “Cultural History 101. Pay attention, there will

be a pop quiz. Sometime around the time of the potato famine in Ireland, the

Catholic Church sent a large number of priests—from Kilkenny, I think, but

don’t hold me to that—to minister to Irish Catholic immigrants in the New

World. Many of them went to Brooklyn, and many to New Orleans. Their

flocks picked up their accent. Now that I’ve heard Comandante Duffy speak,

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of them were sent down here, too.”

Now Duffy smiled.

“On the other hand,” Duffy said to Castillo, “you sound like a Porteño,

Colonel. What did Holy Mother Church in Argentina do, send Porteño priests

to New York?”

Castillo laughed.

“Actually, I’m a Texican,” Castillo said.

“A what?”

“A Texican. One whose family came from Mexico a very long time ago, be -

fore Texas was a state. My family’s from San Antonio.”

“I am a great admirer of the Texas Rangers,” Duffy said.

“I have two ancestors who were Texas Rangers, a long time ago.”

“Sometimes we think of the colonel as the Lone Ranger,” Delchamps said.

“Can I ask what a Porteño is?”

“Somebody from Buenos Aires,” Alex Darby offered, “who speaks with sort

of a special cant.”

“And a hijos de puta?” Delchamps pursued.

“Argentina is a society where people like narcos are held in scorn by men,”

Darby said, chuckling. “Hijos de puta is a pejorative.”

“I believe you would say ‘sonsofbitches,’ ” Duffy said.

“What did you have in mind, Comandante,” Castillo asked, “when you said,

‘If we are going to work together’?”

“Well, José and I had a very nice luncheon in the port restaurant in Mon-

tevideo. Do you know it?”

Castillo shook his head.


2 7 5

“You’ll have to try it sometime. It’s really excellent, if you like meat prepared

on a parrilla. It’s right across from the Buquebus terminal.”

“Can we get to the point of this?” Castillo asked.

“During which,” Duffy went on, nodding, “Ordóñez told me, in confi-

dence, of course, that what really happened at Estancia Shangri-La had noth-

ing to do with narcos.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I never heard of Estancia Shangri-La?”

“No. But I certainly understand why you would profess never to have heard

of it. If I may continue?”

Castillo made a dramatic, sarcastic gesture for him to do so.

“I also learned from my friend José that his very dear friend, El Coronel

Alfredo Munz, formerly the head of SIDE, was associated with you, Colonel.

I had only the privilege of a casual acquaintance with El Coronel Munz be-

fore the Interior Ministry threw him to the wolves following the murder

of Señor Masterson, but I had always heard that he was an honest man, de-

spite the rumors that he was very close to a very bad man named Aleksandr


“Never heard of him, either,” Castillo said. “You, Edgar?”

Delchamps shook his head.

Duffy’s face first paled, then flushed.

“Enough of this nonsense,” Comandante Liam Duffy said angrily. “Let me

tell you what I know about you, Colonel Castillo. When the diplomat’s wife

was kidnapped, you suddenly appeared on the scene and were placed in charge

of the situation. But by someone superior to the ambassador, because the am-

bassador was placed at your orders. You directed the protection of the Master-

son family. After Masterson was murdered, you found out who had killed him,

and when those hijos de puta went to the estancia of Masterson’s brother-in-

law, most probably to eliminate him and take possession of some sixteen mil-

lion dollars, they were surprised to find you and a team of your men waiting

for them, having traveled there by helicopter.

“You eliminated all of the bastards and took possession of the sixteen mil-

lion dollars. You lost one of your men, and Colonel Munz suffered a wound.

And these were not ordinary narcos. One of them was Major Alejandro Vin-

cenzo of the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia.”

He paused.

“Shall I go on, Colonel Castillo?”

“What is it that you want from me, Comandante?” Castillo asked.

“What I intend to do, Colonel, is find and deal with the criminales who

murdered and kidnapped my men. I will make the point very strongly that this

2 7 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

was unacceptable behavior. I’m very much afraid that in your efforts to free Spe-

cial Agent Timmons, you will interfere with my plans to do this. That is some-

thing I cannot —will not— permit.

“From what both Ordóñez and Munz tell me about you, you let nothing

get in your way of what you consider your mission. So you have the choice,

Colonel, between working under my orders or leaving Argentina. You have al-

ready broken many of our laws, and are obviously prepared to break whatever

of our laws might interfere with your mission.

“Working under my orders will mean that I will have access to your

assets, including money, intelligence, equipment, and personnel. More

important, it will mean that you will take no action of any kind without my


“On the other hand, you will have access to my intelligence and what few

assets I have. Ordóñez has told Munz I am a man of my word. I am. We have

a more or less common goal. You want to get your man Timmons back from

the narcos. Beyond that, I don’t know. We share an interest in interdicting the

flow of drugs, of course. But we both know that neither you nor I—or you and

I together—can stop the trade. But we can, I believe, cost the hijos de puta a

great deal of money. That’s something.

“So what you are going to do now, Colonel Castillo, is go out to Nuestra

Pequeña Casa—which was rented under fraudulent conditions for illegal pur-

poses—and get on that marvelous radio of yours—the possession and use of

which are also offenses under Argentina law—and tell your superior of this

conversation. If he is agreeable to our working together, Alfredo knows how

to contact me. If not, I will give you twenty-four hours from noon today to get

out of Argentina before I notify the Interior Ministry of your illegal behavior,

and the foreign ministry of the actions of el Señor Darby, el Señor la Señora

Sieno, and others, which I feel certain will merit their being declared persona

non grata. Do I make myself clear, Colonel?”

Castillo met Duffy’s eyes and nodded.

“I mentioned sharing my intelligence with you,” Duffy said. “It has come

to my attention that the narcos were aware you were coming to Argentina to

deal with Special Agent Timmons’s kidnapping. Their solution to that poten-

tial problem for them was to kidnap you, and failing that, to kill you. And, of

course, your men. It was for that reason that my men were at Ezeiza and es-

corted you here. I didn’t want that to happen to you until we had a chance

to talk.”

“Thank you very much for your concern,” Castillo said with a sarcastic edge.

“It is nothing, Colonel. Have a pleasant day.”





Duffy stood up behind his desk and threw the envelope of photographs back

across the desk to Castillo.

“You may have those, Colonel,” he said as he put on his suit jacket. “In case

you might need a reminder that if the hijos de puta are willing to do this to my

men, they’ll certainly be willing to do the same to Special Agent Timmons.”

Then he walked out of the room, leaving the door open.

Max lay down again, watching the door with his head resting between his

front paws.

They heard the sound of an engine starting, of a car moving, then the

sound of it bumping down over the bumps of the ramp, then the screech of the

corrugated steel overhead door opening to the street.

Castillo looked at the others and found they were all looking at him.

“Gentlemen,” he said. “Why don’t we go out to Nuestra Pequeña Casa and

get some breakfast?”

He paused, then went on: “And if you have nothing better to do, please

assemble your thoughts vis-à-vis getting your leader out of this fucking mess.”


Mayerling Country Club

Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

1125 9 September 2005

When Munz slowed the BMW as they approached the striped pole barrier to

the country club, he looked over at Castillo, who was sitting beside him. Max

had somehow managed to squeeze himself between Castillo’s feet, and now

had his head on Castillo’s lap. Castillo, his head bent, was apparently asleep.

Munz smiled and shook his head.

“We’re here, Karl,” Munz announced. “Our gendarmería escort has just

left us.”

Castillo’s head immediately jerked erect.

“Would you believe I was thinking?” he asked.

“No,” Jake Torine said from the backseat.

Torine was jammed in between Alex Darby and Edgar Delchamps.

“I was trying to make an important decision,” Castillo said.

“And did you?”

“I thought I would seek your wise counsel before reaching a final decision,”

Castillo said. “Based on your vast poker-playing experience.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Ace?” Delchamps asked.

2 7 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“When do I call that Evil Leprechaun sonofabitch and tell him I surrender?”

“Is that what you’re going to do?” Darby asked.

Castillo did not reply directly. Instead, he went on, “Do I call almost im-

mediately, as if my superior in Washington immediately caved in? Or in an

hour—or two or three—giving Duffy the idea that my superior ordered me to

surrender only after solemn thought, probably after he consulted with his su-


“I gather you are not going to seek Montvale’s sage advice?” Delchamps said.

“Or anybody else’s?”

“Two problems with that,” Castillo said, “the first, of course, being that

Montvale is not my superior. Second, my asking Montvale would permit him

to happily run to the President—who is my boss—then sadly report that, as he

predicted, the impetuous young colonel has gotten himself in a bind in Ar-

gentina. The idea there being to really put me in Montvale’s pocket. So the only

‘anybody else’ I can call is my boss—‘Good morning, Mr. President. The Lone

Ranger here. A redheaded Argentine cop has got me by the balls and I really

don’t know what to do.’ ”

Delchamps chuckled.

“Make the call in two or three hours, Karl,” Munz said, softly but seriously.

“Reasoning?” Castillo asked.

“Liam Duffy would be suspicious if you called him right away, that you did

not consult with your superior and were lying to him. He expects that you do

have a superior—far down the ladder from your President, but a superior, or

superiors. If you wait the several hours, he will probably think that you have

been ordered to cooperate with him. And will think that makes you less of a

problem to him.”

Castillo grunted, then looked at Darby.


“I think you should follow Alfredo’s advice,” Alex Darby said. “He tends to

be right.”

“Jake?” Castillo said, turning.

“That’s a decision someone of my pay grade is not qualified to make,”

Torine said.


“I go with Alfredo,” Delchamps said.

“Okay. I’ll call him in three hours,” Castillo said.

“Karl,” Munz said, “remember that Duffy said, ‘Munz knows how to con-

tact me.’ ”

“I remember,” Castillo said. “So?”

“I suggest it might be better if I was your contact with Duffy.”


2 7 9

Castillo was considering the implications of that when Delchamps said,

“He’s right again, Ace.”

“Okay again, then,” Castillo said.

He looked out the window. They were almost at Nuestra Pequeña Casa.

“I thought with a little bit of luck I might never see this place again,”

he said.

Susanna Sieno opened the door of the house as they pulled up to it. Max got

out first, climbing over Castillo into the rear seat and then jumping out the rear

door as Darby opened it.

Castillo swore.

“Not very well trained, is he, Ace?” Delchamps asked innocently.

There was a man sitting in a straight-backed chair just inside the door. He

stood up and came to attention as Castillo entered.

He was short, stocky, olive-skinned, had a neatly trimmed pencil-line mus-

tache and a closely cropped ring of dark hair circling the rear of his skull, the

rest of which was hairless and shiny. He was wearing a shiny blue single-breasted

suit, a white shirt, and a really ugly necktie, which ended halfway down

his stomach.

That Irish sonofabitch has had the balls to put a spy in here!

Confirmation of that seemed to come when the man said, “Buenos días, mi

coronel. A sus órdenes.”

Castillo nodded, and replied in Spanish, “Good day. And you are?”

“Capitán Manuel D’Elia, mi coronel.”

Castillo continued the exchange in Spanish: “And what are you doing here?”

“I am here for duty, mi coronel.”

“Comandante Duffy sent you?”

“No, mi coronel.”

“Then who did?”

“General McNab, mi coronel.”

“You’re an American?”

“Sí, mi coronel.”

“Where are you from, Captain?”

Captain D’Elia switched to English. “Miami, Colonel.”

“It’s not your day, is it, Ace?” Delchamps said. “He really got you.”

Castillo flashed him a dirty look.

D’Elia said, “I sent Colin Leverette to Rucker—he said he knew you, sir—

while I got the team moving from Bragg. And I brought up the rear. I got here

yesterday morning. Mrs. Sieno brought me out here.”

2 8 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Your whole team is here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Here here? Or someplace else?”

“I’m the only one here, sir. The others are stashed in hotels around

Buenos Aires. Except our commo and intel sergeants who—at Mr. Darby’s

suggestion—I sent ahead to Asunción.”

“Where in Asunción?”

Darby said, “They’re in the Hotel Resort Casino Yacht & Golf Club

Paraguay, Charley. Gambling, chasing ladies, maybe even playing golf—on

your nickel—and incidentally looking around.”

“They’re not going to attract attention doing that?”

“They’re traveling on Mexican passports, Colonel,” D’Elia said. “Legiti-

mate ones. They’re Texicans.”

He looked at Castillo to see if he understood the term.

“You’re looking at one,” Castillo said.

D’Elia smiled.

“With all possible respect, sir—and I admit you do talk the talk—you look

like a gringo to me.”

“And you don’t, fortunately,” Castillo said. “What about your sergeants in


“No one will think they’re gringos, Colonel.”

“And the rest of your team?”

“Everybody but Colin Leverette can pass—has passed—as a native Latino.

That’s presuming Paraguay isn’t that much different from Bolivia or Venezuela.

Or Cuba, for that matter, although not everybody on my team has had the

chance to see how Castro has fucked up the land of my ancestors.”

“Colin told me he’d been to Cuba,” Castillo said.

“He did fine in Cuba as a Brazilian,” D’Elia said. “In Venezuela—not so

many black-skinned folks—he also passed himself off as a Brazilian. He speaks

pretty good Portuguese.”

“He also speaks pretty good Pashtu,” Castillo said.

“So do I,” D’Elia said in Pashtu. “Darby and I were talking about that. We

must have just missed each other over there, sir.”

“You knew Alex there?”

D’Elia nodded.

“And Mrs. Sieno and I have been exchanging Cuban war stories,” he said.

“Under those circumstances, welcome, welcome, Captain,” Castillo said.

“Just as soon as we get something to eat, I’ll bring you up to speed on what’s

going down.”


2 8 1

He turned to Susanna Sieno.

“How about mustering the troops in the quincho, Susanna?”


Castillo nodded, then understood her question.

“Ask Sergeant Mullroney and Lieutenant Lorimer to come watch us eat

first, please. Then muster them in the quincho.”

“Sit down, please, Sergeant Mullroney,” Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Castillo said

politely when the Chicago detective came into the dining room of the main

house with Lorimer. “While we talk about what we’re going to do with you.”

Mullroney sat down across the table from Castillo; Lorimer sat down be-

tween Torine and Delchamps.

A plump, middle-aged woman and a younger one began distributing ham

and eggs and plates of rolls.

Her daughter? Castillo wondered.

Whoever they are, they wouldn’t be here if Susanna didn’t trust them.

Castillo pushed a coffee thermos across the table.

“Has Charley here been a good boy, Eddie?” Castillo asked.

“A very good boy, sir,” First Lieutenant Edmund Lorimer said.

“Then we mustn’t forget to give him a gold star to take home to mommy—

I mean, the mayor—mustn’t we?”

“No, sir, we mustn’t. I’ll be sure to do that. May I ask when that will

be, Colonel?”

“First thing tomorrow morning,” Castillo said. He looked at Mullroney for

a long moment, then asked, “No comment, Sergeant?”

“You know the mayor’s not going to be happy if you send me home,

Colonel,” Mullroney said after a moment.

“I guess not,” Castillo said. “But the situation here—already bad—got

worse about an hour ago, which leaves me with two choices. Making the mayor

unhappy by sending you back home, or watching this operation blow up in my

face—which, as you know, Sergeant, means in the President’s face—which is

not really an option.”

“Lorimer just told you I haven’t been giving anybody any trouble,” Mull-

roney protested.

“That’s because Lieutenant Lorimer has been sitting on you, under my or-

ders to take you out if you even looked like you were thinking of doing some-

thing you shouldn’t. So you behaved, and you get to go home—alive—with that

gold star I was talking about.”

2 8 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“You really don’t want to piss off the mayor, Colonel,” Mullroney said.

“No, I don’t, and I don’t think I will. Making him unhappy and pissing him

off are two different things. Do you know what we mean by a Gold Star for

Mommy, Sergeant?”

Mullroney didn’t reply, and his face showed embarrassed confusion.

“I will send a letter to the mayor with Colonel Torine,” Castillo said, “with

copies to the President and the director of National Intelligence, saying how

much we appreciate his offering us your services, and how hard you have tried

to be of use, but that I have reluctantly concluded you just don’t have the in-

vestigative, analytical, and other skills necessary, and that I decided the best

thing to do to ensure the success of the operation was to send you home.”

“You sonofabitch!” Mullroney said.

Castillo went on as if he hadn’t heard him: “Now, that will almost certainly

make the mayor unhappy, but I think if he’s going to be pissed off at anybody

it will be at you, Sergeant Mullroney, for not being able to cut the mustard. I

don’t think that will make you too popular with Special Agent Timmons’s fam-

ily, either.”

Mullroney locked eyes with Castillo but didn’t say anything.

“Permission to speak, sir?” Lorimer asked.

Castillo appeared to be considering that before he made a Come on with

it gesture.

“Sir, inasmuch as Sergeant Mullroney didn’t ask to be sent with us, it doesn’t

seem fair that he should find his ass in a crack.”

From the expression in Mullroney’s eyes, ol’ Charley did in fact volunteer to come

along with us.

Volunteering no doubt scored a lot of points with the mayor.

And there’d be even more brownie points if we—and he—managed to get Tim-

mons back.

“We’re not in the ‘fair’ business, Lorimer,” Castillo said coldly. “And there-

fore, since you are presumed to understand that—”

“Colonel,” Delchamps interrupted. “If I may?”

Castillo appeared to be considering that, too, before he gestured for

Delchamps to continue.

I don’t know what you’re going to say, Edgar, but obviously you picked up on

where I’m trying to go with Mullroney.

You even called me “colonel.”

What’s going to happen now, I think, is instead of the ordinary good guy, bad

guy scam, we’re going to have two good guys saving Mullroney from bad ol’

Colonel Castillo.


2 8 3

“I understand your concerns, Colonel,” Delchamps went on. “But what I

have been thinking is that Detective Mullroney might be useful when we go

to Paraguay.”

“How?” Castillo asked, his tone on the edge of sarcasm.

“In dealing with both the people in the embassy and the local police. With

regard to the former, whether you go there as Colonel Castillo or as Mr. Castillo,

you are still going to be the important visitor from Washington, and they are

not going to tell you anything that might come around, in that marvelous

phrase, to bite them on the ass. As far as the local police are concerned—your

command of the language notwithstanding—you are going to be a visiting

gringo, and they are not going to tell you anything.”

Delchamps paused, then continued, “Now, Detective Mullroney—”

“Actually, I’m a sergeant,” Mullroney interrupted.

Delchamps flashed Mullroney a look making it clear that he didn’t like

being interrupted, then went on, “Sergeant Mullroney is a bona fide police of-

ficer, low enough in rank so as not to frighten away the people in the embassy

but yet to be, so to speak, one of them. I’m suggesting that he might be told—

or would see—things they would not tell or show you.”

I am now pretending to carefully consider what Delchamps just said.

The funny thing is it makes sense, even if he came up with it just to help

Lorimer and me keep Mullroney on a tight leash.

“There may be something to what you say, Delchamps,” Castillo said after

what he considered to be a suitable pause, “but do you really believe that it out-

weighs the risk of Mullroney doing something stupid that would blow the op-


“Well, you’d have to keep him on a short leash, of course,” Delchamps said,

“but, yes, Colonel, I do. You might be surprised how valuable he might be.”

“Sir, I’ll be sitting on him,” Lorimer said.

“But you have this odd notion of fair play, Lieutenant,” Castillo said.

Castillo put what he hoped was a thoughtful look on his face and kept it

there for thirty seconds, which seemed much longer.

“And,” Castillo then went on, “to be of any use to us in the manner you

suggest, he would have to know what’s going on—starting with being present

at the briefing I am about to deliver—and I’m uncomfortable with that.”

“Sir, I’ll be sitting on him,” Lorimer said again.

“You’ve mentioned that,” Castillo snapped.

“Sorry, sir,” Lorimer said, and looked at Mullroney with a look that said,

Well, I tried.

“All right,” Castillo said. “I’ll go this far. You will not return to the United

2 8 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

States with Colonel Torine tomorrow. I will give this matter further thought,

and let you know what I finally decide.”

“Thank you,” Mullroney said softly.

“Take Sergeant Mullroney out to the quincho and tell the others I’ll be there

shortly. I need a word with these gentlemen.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorimer said.

He gestured for Mullroney to get up and then followed him out of

the room.

When the door had closed, Castillo mimed applauding. The others


“May I ask a question, Karl?” Munz said.


“You don’t trust him, do you?”

“He strikes me as the kind of not-too-bright guy who, meaning well, is likely

to rush off in the wrong direction. And we can’t afford that.”

“Can I ask why you trust me?”

“Aside from all that money we’re paying you, and the bullet you took

for us?”

Torine, Darby, and Delchamps chuckled.

“You know what I mean, Karl,” Munz pursued.

“Straight answer?”

Munz nodded.

“There are some people I intuitively know I can trust. You’re one of them.

That may not be professional or even smart, but—the proof being I’m not

pushing up daisies—so far it’s worked.”

“Thank you,” Munz said softly, on the edge of emotion. “I had the same

feeling about you.”

Their eyes met for a moment.

“Hurriedly changing the subject,” Castillo said, “pay close attention. Your

leader has just had one of his brilliant—if somewhat off at a tangent—


“Can you hold it a minute, Ace?” Delchamps asked.


“When I talked about Mullroney being useful in Paraguay, I meant it. Not

only for the reasons I gave.”


“Did you pick up on what Duffy said about him being worried about

your health?”

Castillo nodded.


2 8 5

Delchamps said, “Somebody—Weiss, probably—has sent the CIA guy in

Asunción a heads-up. ‘Watch out for Castillo.’ ”

“I sort of thought he would,” Castillo said.

“And did you sort of think his reaction would be ‘whack Castillo’? and/or

‘whack him and everybody with him’?”

“Who’s Weiss?” Darby asked.

Delchamps held up his hand, palm outward, as a sign to Darby to wait

a minute.

Castillo shook his head.

“No. I didn’t,” Castillo said, simply.

“What’s your take on the threat, Alfredo?” Delchamps asked. “A little the-

ater on Duffy’s part?”

“No. I think he believes there was a threat.”

“Which would mean he has somebody in the embassy, or at least somebody

in Asunción, who he trusts and who fed him that,” Delchamps said.

Munz nodded his agreement.

Delchamps turned to Darby.

“Maybe you know him, Alex,” he said. “Company old-timer. Milton


“I don’t know him. I’ve seen him around.”

“Weiss first came to me, then to Castillo, and told us (a) that the station

chief in Asunción is a lot smarter than he wants people to think he is, and (b)

that they’ve got an operation going where they’re going to grab a cruise ship,

maybe ships—”

“Cruise ships?” Darby said, incredulously.

Delchamps nodded, and continued, “Under maritime law, they’re subject

to seizure if the owners collude in their use to transport drugs.”

“How are they going to prove the owners knew?” Darby asked.

“According to Weiss, they have that figured out,” Castillo said.

“And they don’t want our operation to free Timmons to fuck up that oper-

ation,” Delchamps said.

“At first it made sort of sense, but then I found out that the agency doesn’t

know anything about this operation—for that matter, anything—going on

down there that we could screw up getting Timmons back.”

“You think the bastards in Langley would tell you?” Darby asked.

Delchamps answered with a question: “Alex, do you think an operation

like that would or could escape the notice of either John Powell or A. Franklin


Darby considered that for a moment.

2 8 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“No. One or the other, probably both, would know about it. The potential

for it blowing up . . .”

“The DCI told me he knew of no such operation.”

“Told you personally?”

“Yeah. And I believed him. Then he sent for Lammelle, and asked him,

and Lammelle said he didn’t know anything about it, either. And I believed

him, too.”

“So what do you think’s going on?”

“I don’t know. But when I thought about it, putting myself in the Asun-

ción station chief ’s shoes, if I had come up with an operation anything like what

Weiss told us he’s got going—and I’m not known for either modesty or my love

for the Langley bastards—I’d want all the help I could get. Even if that meant

taking it to Langley myself and waiting in the lobby or the guard shack to

catch Lammelle or the DCI wherever I could find them.”

“Again, Edgar, what do you think’s going on?” Castillo asked.

“No goddamn idea, Ace, except that I know it’s not what Weiss has been

feeding us. But now that we have it on good authority that my fellow officers

of the clandestine service want to whack me and the President’s agent, I’m be-

ginning to wonder if maybe they’ve changed sides.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jake Torine said softly.

“So what do we do?” Castillo said.

“I don’t know that either. But I think—what I was saying before about

Mullroney being useful—that you and he should go to the embassy in Asun-

ción and let him stumble around.”

“Use him as a beard?” Castillo asked.

Delchamps nodded, then asked: “Can I use your 007 radio to make a cou-

ple of calls? Like maybe two hundred? There are some questions I can ask some

people I know.”

“You don’t have to ask, for Christ’s sake,” Castillo said.

“That’s the best I can do right now, Ace. I suggest you go to Asunción with

Mullroney, acting as if you don’t think there’s anything wrong, but it’s your call.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to whack people.”

“I want to talk to Pevsner before I go to Asunción.”

“They’ll expect you two in Asunción as soon as you can get there,”

Delchamps said simply.

“Let’s make that choice after we hear what Duffy has to say,” Castillo said.

“Okay. You need me in that meeting, or can I get on the horn?”

Before Castillo could open his mouth, Delchamps went on: “Sorry. We

haven’t heard your brilliant thought.”


2 8 7

“It was brilliant just a few minutes ago,” Castillo said. “Now it doesn’t seem

either very brilliant or especially important.”

“Let’s hear it,” Delchamps said.

“I was worried about the Hueys and the guys from the 160th on the

Ronald Reagan.”

“Why?” Torine asked.

“There’s a two-star admiral on board. Two-star admirals tend to cover their

ass. We can’t afford not to get those choppers repainted and off the ship, but

the senior 160th guy is a major. Majors tend to do what flag and general offi-

cers tell them to do.”

“I knew a major one time, an Army Aviator, who didn’t seem all that im-

pressed by two-stars,” Darby said. “He even stole one of their Black Hawks.”

“Borrowed, Alex. Borrowed. I gave it back,” Castillo said.

“What are you thinking, Charley?” Torine asked.

“That we need a more senior officer aboard the Reagan,” Castillo said. “Like

maybe an Air Force colonel bearing a letter from Truman Ellsworth or maybe

even Montvale, saying in essence, ‘Don’t fuck with the Hueys.’ ”

“God, you are devious!” Torine said. He thought that over a moment, and

then said, “What if I got on—what did Edgar call it?—‘the 007 radio’ and called

Ellsworth and said I was a little worried . . .”

“Talk about devious!” Delchamps said.

“. . . he would think it was his idea,” Torine finished. “When are the Hueys

going to leave Rucker?”

“I don’t know,” Castillo said.

“So you call —you, Jake,” Delchamps said, “and find out, and then you call

Ellsworth and say, ‘I just found out the choppers are about to go on board the

Reagan, and I’m a little worried about something going wrong.’ ”

“Why do I feel I have just been had?” Torine asked. “Okay, Charley, you’re

right. Some admiral is liable to feel he can’t get in trouble launching black he-

licopters if something happens—like being too far at sea—that keeps him from

launching them.”

“Thanks, Jake.”

“Don’t be too grateful, Ace,” Delchamps said with a grin. “Nobody’s

going to shoot at him on the Reagan, which I think explains his sudden en-


Torine gave him the finger.

“We can call from right here, right?” Torine asked.

Castillo nodded.

“That will be all, Colonel,” Torine said. “You may now go brief the troops.”



Nuestra Pequeña Casa

Mayerling Country Club

Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

1220 9 September 2005

Castillo rapped a spoon against his coffee mug and waited silently until every-

body who had gathered in the quincho was looking at him.

Then Castillo began: “An initial review of our current situation, gentlemen—

and lady—suggested the possibility of some minor problems. A more detailed

analysis indicates that we are really in the deep do-do.”

That got the chuckles he expected.

“Let me trace the events from the moment Max found Lieutenant Lorimer

sneaking through our shrubbery. . . .”

Castillo had gotten as far into his recapitulation of what had happened since

they had hurriedly left Argentina as the Chicago meeting of Special Agent Tim-

mons’s family—and the mayor—when Jake Torine appeared in the door of the


Castillo made a T with his hands, signaling Time out, and walked to the

quincho door.

“Sorry to interrupt, Colonel,” Torine announced, “but I really need a mo-

ment of your time.”

Castillo gestured for Torine to follow him outside.

“I called Rucker,” Torine said once they were alone. “Major Ward told me

they’re going to fly to Jacksonville Naval Air Station tomorrow, and then, the

day after tomorrow, fly out to the Ronald Reagan.”


“Jacksonville, Florida,” Torine explained. “East Coast, almost at the Geor-

gia border.”

“I know where Jacksonville is, Jake. But why not go to Jacksonville the day


2 8 9

after tomorrow, take on fuel, and then fly onto the Reagan? Their sitting around

Jacksonville for a day will cause questions to be asked.”

“Ward says the Navy wants to make sure they’re not going to sink the air-

craft carrier trying to land on it.”

“That’s bullshit, Jake. The pilots in the 160th are the best in the Army, the

most experienced. And landing a Huey on a carrier is a hell of a lot easier than

making an arrested landing with a fighter.”

“That’s what I told Truman Ellsworth,” Torine said. He waited until he saw

Castillo’s reaction to that, then smiled and nodded.

“I called him,” Torine went on, “and reminded him that he had suggested

I call him if you had done something impulsive. And then I told him you had

arranged to send choppers to South America aboard the Ronald Reagan, and I

was afraid that the Navy didn’t like it—proof being the ‘orientation’ they were

insisting on—and was going to cause trouble.”

He paused.

“I was good, Charley. I didn’t know I had it in me.”

“Maybe because you don’t like Ellsworth any more than I do.”

“That’s a real possibility. My conscience didn’t bother me at all.”

“And what did our mutual friend have to say?”

“He said he’d call me right back. Five minutes later, Montvale called me.

First thing, he asked where you were. I told him you were somewhere between

Buenos Aires and Asunción. Which is true. So then he said he would have

to deal with this himself. He said it was a pity I wasn’t in the States, because

what he really would like to do is send me aboard the Reagan to keep an eye

on things.”


“I told him I would be in the States tomorrow.”


“And he said, ‘Don’t plan on unpacking your bags when you get to Wash -

ington, Colonel, you’re going for a little voyage.’ To which I replied, ‘What will

I tell Castillo?’ To which he replied, “I’ll deal with Lieutenant Colonel Castillo,

Colonel Torine. You don’t have to worry about that.’ ”

“So the thing to do,” Castillo said, “is get you back to the States as soon as

possible. Which opens a new can of worms. For one thing, you just got here;

you’re tired, you don’t want to—shouldn’t—fly right back. The flip side of that

is: What is the Evil Leprechaun going to say when I call him? He may consider

the Gulfstream as one of the assets he wants me to share with him. So getting

it out of here as soon as possible is probably smart.”

“What about me taking Dave Yung and Colin Leverette to Montevideo?”

2 9 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Torine suggested. “Right now, I mean. Sparkman and I could crash in Two-

Gun’s apartment for a while—five, six hours, anyway—then leave for the States

later today, tonight, or first thing in the morning.”

“That’d work. But the worm that pops up there is: How do we get the air-

plane back here? Ambassador Lorimer, his wife, and the two guys from China

Post will be on board.”

“I can get another Gulfstream pilot from the Presidential Flight Detach-


Castillo, visibly thinking, didn’t reply.

“Isn’t that what you meant?” Torine pursued.

Castillo didn’t have time to reply. Edgar Delchamps was walking toward

them from the house. Max decided Delchamps had come out to play, inter-

cepted him, and dropped a tennis ball at his feet. Delchamps picked up the ball

and threw it as far across the yard as he could, then walked up to Castillo

and Torine.

“I just had a brilliant insight of my own,” Delchamps announced. “Any-

body interested?”

“I’m breathless with anticipation,” Torine said.

“We’re just spinning our wheels if we can’t get the choppers off the Reagan

and refuel them at Shangri-La. And the key to making that happen is Chief In-

spector José Ordóñez. If you can’t get Ordóñez to look the other way, we’re

fucked. And you don’t know how much damage your new pal Duffy has done

with him.”

Castillo considered that a moment. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t suppose

you had a solution to go along with your insight?”

“The obvious one: Go see him.”

“Me? Or Alfredo? Or both? You remember the last time we saw Ordóñez

he said, ‘So long, and don’t come back’?”

“Why don’t you ask Munz?”

“Jake and I had just about decided that he’d drop off Yung and Leverette in

Montevideo on his way to the States,” Castillo said. “No reason he couldn’t take

Munz with him. Or both of us.”

He stepped into the quincho doorway and motioned for Alfredo Munz to

come out. Then he raised his voice and announced to the others, “Something’s

come up that we have to deal with right away. Just sit tight.”

Munz waited for Castillo to speak.

“Two questions, Alfredo: How much damage did Liam Duffy do to us

with Ordóñez?”

“I was about to suggest that we go see him,” Munz said. “Until we do that,


2 9 1

we won’t know how much damage he’s caused, and it’s important that

we know.”

“Aren’t we liable to cause more damage if I go? I just reminded Delchamps

that the last time I saw him, he said, ‘Good-bye, and don’t come back.’ ”

“He knows you’re planning an operation in either Argentina or Paraguay.

That’s none of his business. What he doesn’t want—and will work very hard to

prevent—is another operation in Uruguay.”

“We’re not planning anything in Uruguay,” Castillo said, “except the refuel-

ing. And done right, that shouldn’t take much more than a couple of hours.”

He paused, then added, “Well, let’s go off on another tangent. Probably the best

way to get the Hueys ashore is to launch them one at a time from the Reagan,

one every forty-five minutes or an hour. And have them fly into and out of

Shangri-La on different courses.”

He looked at Torine for any input.

“You’re the expert, Charley,” Torine said.

“Four Hueys, or even two, flying overhead is going to attract more atten-

tion than just one,” Castillo said.

“True,” Torine agreed.

“Whatever you decide to do, Karl,” Munz said, “Ordóñez would be more

assured if he heard it from you than from me. Like me, José believes you can

tell if a man is lying by looking into his eyes.”

“I’ve got to ask this,” Castillo said. “Would a little gift—hell, a great big

gift—make any difference?”

“The very offer would probably kill any chance at all of him being will-

ing to look the other way,” Munz said. “What you’re going to have to do,

Karl, is convince him that his permitting your helicopters to enter—even

secretly—Uruguayan airspace and using Shangri-La as a refueling place is in

the best interests of Uruguay. That it won’t cause any problems for Uru-


“Okay. So we go to Uruguay,” Castillo said. “And right now.”

He gestured for the others to follow him back into the quincho.

“Comandante Duffy’s going to be annoyed when he finds out we’ve left here,”

Castillo explained. “But I will deal with that later when I call him from Mon-

tevideo. What I don’t want to do is have any friction with him as we leave that

might cause trouble about us going to Montevideo.

“I regard his threat to have us kicked out of the country—or arrested—as

valid. But I think he’s very interested in what he calls our assets, and I don’t think

2 9 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

he’s going to blow that whistle until I tell him no, or until I do something sus-


“I am also convinced that the arrogant bastard thinks he’s got me really

scared. Which, as a matter of fact, he does. So we’re going to go with exactly

that—I’m scared and I’m leaving.

“What we’re going to do is load in the van everybody who’s going to

Uruguay—that’s Yung, Leverette, Sparkman, Munz, Torine, Bradley, and me—

and have Neidermeyer drive us out to Ezeiza, where we will file a flight plan to

Montevideo, then clear immigration and customs, and leave.”

Castillo glanced at the others, who would remain at the safe house. Alex

Darby, D’Elia, the Sienos, and Lieutenant Lorimer showed no signs of having

any problem with that. But Castillo thought he saw questions in Sergeant Mull-

roney’s eyes.

Questions, Castillo thought, that he’s learned not to ask, thanks no doubt to

our little incident in the mountains outside Vegas.

Maybe he’s not completely stupid. . . .

Castillo went on: “I think we can presume Duffy has a car—maybe two—

sitting on us at the gate. We are not going to try, à la James Bond, to lose them

in traffic. If they can’t keep up, much better, but we’re not going to look as if

we’re running away.

“We can also presume that if they have managed to follow us to Ezeiza,

they’ll follow us inside the terminal and learn what we’re doing and tell Duffy.

With a little luck, they’ll also tell him we haven’t tried anything sneaky.

“That’ll give him the choice between letting us leave or trying to stop us,

and he’ll have to make that choice in a hurry. I think he’ll decide, ‘Okay, good

riddance,’ possibly because keeping us from leaving might be hard for him to

do anyway. If we’re brazen, he’ll reason that’s because we’ve destroyed every-

thing—the radios, for example—that could get us in trouble. And he doesn’t

want the stink that would be made if a bunch of American tourists were stopped

without cause. So I think we can make it to Uruguay.

“Once we’re airborne, we’ll call on the radio. If you don’t hear from us, or

if somebody comes knocking at the door, be ready to use the thermite grenades

to torch the radios and anything else that’s incriminating.”

He looked at everybody and added, “If anybody has any better ideas, I’m

wide open.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“What about Max?” Delchamps asked.

“What about him?”

“If you don’t take him, Ace, that might give Duffy the idea you plan to

come back. But if you do, what are you going to do with him? How are you





going to get him back here from Uruguay? The Gulfstream’s going to the


Castillo looked down at Max, who was lying with his head between his

paws, his big eyes looking up at him.

“Max goes,” he said after a moment. “You’re right. Duffy would expect me

to take him with me if I was leaving.”

Did I say that because I believe it? Or because, quite clearly, I just again heard

Abuela saying, “You don’t even have a dog”—and I don’t have the heart to just leave

the big sonofabitch here not knowing if I am coming back.

He’s saved my life, once for sure in Budapest and probably in the garage of the

Sheraton Pilar, and I could hide behind that.

But the truth is, Castillo, that you’re a goddamned softie.

You like the way he looks at you with those big, soft eyes.

“Okay, Lieutenant Lorimer, sound ‘Boots and Saddles,’ Castillo ordered.


Suite 2152

Radisson Montevideo Victoria Plaza Hotel

Plaza Independencia 759

Montevideo, República Oriental del Uruguay

1720 9 September 2005

Special Agent David W. Yung was smiling and shaking his head as he watched

Jake Torine toss peanuts to Max, who snapped them from the air.

Chief Warrant Officer Five Colin Leverette, holding a bottle of beer, stood

up from the minibar, looked at Yung, and announced, “Two-Gun is thinking

about sex. He’s shaking his head in disbelief and smiling.”

“Close,” Yung replied. “I’m thinking I can’t believe the general manager be-

lieved Charley’s yarn —‘I’m an epileptic and this dog has been trained to alert me

when he senses a seizure coming on.’ ”

“I was counting on him having seen that malady on Fox News,” Castillo

said, solemnly. “You always have to have an answer prepared, David.”

“What our dog lover here was actually counting on working was that

hundred-dollar bill he slipped the manager,” Torine said.

“Max is up here, isn’t he, despite those ‘No Pets’ signs in three languages on

the door?” Castillo said.

“And a good thing for you that he is, Charley,” Torine said. “You’re going

to need him to protect you from that cop when he learns you’re back.”

The telephone buzzed. Castillo signaled for Yung to pick it up.

2 9 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Thank you,” Yung said in Spanish into the receiver. “We’ll be right down.”

He hung up, looked at Castillo, and switched back to English: “The car from

the embassy is here.”

“That was quick,” Leverette said.

“The embassy’s only a couple of blocks from here,” Yung explained, and

then added, “Maybe I better take Max with me to protect me from Ambassador

McGrory. I don’t think he’s going to be happy to see me.”

“Nonsense,” Castillo said. “He’ll be thrilled. The secretary of State called

him personally to tell him you’re coming.”

“That’s what I mean,” Yung said.

“Okay,” Castillo said. “You get the keys to your apartment for Jake and

Sparkman. And the keys to your car, if that’s been fixed. All McGrory has to

know about Jake and Sparkman is that they’re pilots from the Presidential Flight

Detachment, and will be leaving as soon as they get some rest. But tell him that,

even if he doesn’t ask; he’s liable to be impressed with that. And then come back

here and let us know how he reacted.”

“Yes, sir,” Yung said.

Castillo picked up on something in Yung’s tone, something just shy of


“Dave,” he said, “I learned a long time ago that it’s better to piss off one of

your guys by telling him again and again how to do something he already

knows how to do than to take the chance he misunderstood you. If I didn’t

think you could handle McGrory, I wouldn’t be sending you to the embassy.”

Yung met his eyes, then smiled and shrugged.

“Yeah,” he said simply.

Castillo raised his right arm and hand in the manner of a priest blessing one

of the faithful. “Go forth and do good, Two-Gun,” he said solemnly.

Yung smiled, shook his head, and started for the door.

Castillo waited until they had left, then turned to Munz.

“Let’s get it over with,” he said. “Call Ordóñez.”

Munz punched an autodial number on his cellular telephone. When it

began to ring, Munz pushed the SPEAKER button.

“Ordóñez,” the familiar voice came over the speaker.

“Alfredo Munz, José.”

“I’ve been waiting for your call, my friend.”

“We’re in the Victoria Plaza. 2152.”

“I know. Stay there.”

Munz exchanged glances with Castillo, who raised his eyebrows.

“Where are you?” Munz said into the phone.


2 9 5

“Sixty kilometers out of Punta del Este. I should be there in about an hour.

Did you hear what I said about staying where you are?”


“That includes Colonel Castillo.”

“Understood,” Munz said, looking at Castillo again.

“They weren’t supposed to permit Castillo or anyone with him to enter the

country,” Ordóñez said. “When I pointed this out to them, they wanted to ar-

rest you. I think I stopped that, but I would not try to leave the hotel.”

“Yung and three others were with us; they were just picked up by an Amer-

ican embassy car.”

“I know. Stay in the Victoria, Alfredo.”

“Very well.”

There was a change in the background noise, and Munz pushed the phone’s

END CALL button.

Munz said, “He apparently meant it when he said, ‘Good-bye, and don’t

come back.’ I don’t know what to think, Karl.”

Castillo silently raised his hands in a gesture of helplessness.

The door chimes sounded pleasantly almost exactly an hour later, and Munz

went to the door and opened it.

Uruguayan Policía Nacional Chief Inspector José Ordóñez, a trim, well-

dressed, olive-skinned man in his late thirties, stepped into the room. He was

visibly surprised to see Max—who sat with his head cocked, as if making up

his mind about the visitor—but Ordóñez didn’t seem afraid of the dog; he ig-

nored him.

He embraced Munz and kissed the air next to his cheek, then looked at

Castillo. After a moment, he put out his hand.

“I won’t say that I’m delighted to see you, Colonel Castillo,” he said in


“Nevertheless, good evening, Chief Inspector,” Castillo replied in Spanish.

“Amazing,” Ordóñez said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he is a Porteño.

The accent is perfect.”

“Carlos is an amazing man, José,” Munz said.

“May we offer you something to drink, Chief Inspector?” Castillo said.

“Yes, thank you,” Ordóñez said without hesitation. “Scotch, please, if you

have it.” He looked at an array of bottles on a credenza. “Some of that Famous

Grouse single malt, if it wouldn’t be an imposition.”

“Not at all,” Castillo said.

2 9 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

He remembered hearing that Uruguay consumed more scotch whiskey per

capita than any other nation in the world, and that the present head of the fam-

ily that had had the lock on importing the whiskey for generations was a Dart-

mouth graduate.

What remote corner of the memory bank did that come from?

He started to open the bottle.

“Just one lump of ice, please,” Ordóñez said. “And half as much gas-free

water as whiskey.”

“Coming up,” Castillo said.

He made three identical drinks and handed Ordóñez and Munz theirs.

They clicked glasses.

Ordóñez walked to the window, pushed the curtain aside, and looked out.

“If this hotel had been built in 1939,” he said, “Millington-Drake could

have watched in comfort from here—for that matter, from the bar in the

Arcadia—rather than having to climb all those stairs to stand in the rain

over there.”

“Excuse me?” Castillo asked.

“The Arcadia restaurant on the twenty-fifth floor. It has a bar.”

Castillo’s confusion showed on his face.

“You do know who Millington-Drake was, don’t you, Colonel?”

“I have no idea who he was,” Castillo said.

“Does the name Langsdorff mean anything to you?”

Langsdorff ?

Who the hell is he talking about?

What the hell is he talking about?

Oh, hell!

You are a disgrace to the Long Gray Line, Castillo!

“Of course,” Castillo said. “He’s buried in Buenos Aires, isn’t he?”

“Yes, he is,” Ordóñez said. “And from the towers of that building—come

have a look—”

Castillo went to the window. In a moment, Munz and Max followed. Or-

dóñez pointed to a tall building across the street, the open ornate masonry

towers of which seemed to be fifty or sixty feet below them.

Ordóñez said: “Sir John Henry Millington-Drake, the British ambassador,

who was a close friend of my great-grandfather, climbed to the top of the

towers you see there—it was raining hard, I understand; he must have gotten

soaked—to watch the pocket battleship Graf Spee sail out of the harbor and

scuttle herself. When the conditions are right, you can make out her super-



2 9 7

“Interesting man,” Castillo said, as the memory banks suddenly opened.

“After seeing to the burial of his dead, and negotiating the terms of the intern-

ment of the rest of the crew, he put on his dress uniform and shot himself to

prove that he had scuttled his ship to save the lives of his men; that he person-

ally wasn’t afraid to die. He positioned himself so that his body fell on the Ger-

man Navy battle flag, rather than the Nazi swastika flag.”

Ordóñez said, “I thought perhaps you—as a graduate of your military

academy—would know who Langsdorff was.”

Yeah, I indeed know who he was.

An officer and a gentleman who lived and died by his code, Death Before Dis-


The motto that murderers, rapists, drug dealers, and other human scum in pris-

ons now tattoo on one another to help pass the time.

“Of course,” Castillo said.

“My great-grandfather told me, Colonel Castillo, that despite the public

story that said it was Millington-Drake’s eloquence and strong personality that

caused the Uruguayan government to scrupulously follow international law

and order the Graf Spee to leave Montevideo within the seventy-two-hour pe-

riod required by the law, it was in fact enormous pressure applied by the United

States government—which, as I’m sure you know, was, like Uruguay, ostensi-

bly neutral in the war between the English and the Germans—that caused it

to do so.”

“I hadn’t heard that,” Castillo said. “But it seems credible.”

“So what are you doing here, Colonel? You know—I’m sure you remem-

ber me telling you—you’re not welcome here. So, again, what is it you’re

doing here?”

“I’m helping Ambassador Lorimer move onto Estancia Shangri-La.”

“Ambassador Lorimer?”

“Jean-Paul Lorimer’s father. He’s a retired diplomat. You didn’t know?”

Ordóñez did not reply directly, instead asking: “Why on earth would he

want to move to a remote estancia in Tacuarembó Province?”

“The Lorimers lost their home in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina,”

Castillo said. “It is—or at least was—under fifteen feet of water.”

“I understand that Mr. Lorimer—the late Mr. Lorimer—had an apartment

in Paris. Wouldn’t that be more comfortable for Ambassador Lorimer?”

“The ambassador told me the United Nations took his son’s Paris apartment

off his hands. At a very good price. He said he had the feeling they would

rather he didn’t go to Paris.”

“So he decided to come here.”

2 9 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Castillo nodded.

“What are Yung and the others doing at your embassy?”

“The State Department—actually the secretary of State herself—called Am-

bassador McGrory to tell him to help Ambassador Lorimer in any way he can.

They’re going to see him about that.”

Ordóñez took a notebook from his pocket, read from it, then asked, “Who

are Sparkman and Leverette?”

“Sparkman is the copilot of the Gulfstream. Leverette is the ambassador’s

butler. He’s going out to Shangri-La and set things up. As soon as that’s done,

we’ll fly the ambassador and his wife down here.”

“All right, Colonel, that’s your cover story, and it’s a good one.” He paused

as he looked him in the eyes. Then he added: “Now let’s get to the truth. Why

are you here?”

“I just told you—” Castillo began, but when he saw Ordóñez hold up

his hand and was about to interrupt him, went on: “And . . . and . . . I need

your help.”

“To do what?” Ordóñez asked matter-of-factly.

“I need to secretly move helicopters into Uruguayan airspace, refuel them,

and fly them out of Uruguay.”

“Using Estancia Shangri-La?”

“Using Shangri-La,” Castillo confirmed.

“And what would the helicopters be used for?”

“One of our DEA agents in Paraguay is being held by drug dealers. My or-

ders are to get him back from the people who have kidnapped him.”

“You know who they are?”

Castillo shook his head.

“Or where they are holding this man?”

Castillo shook his head.

“Not even in which country?”

Castillo shook his head again.

“Then this man whom you have been ordered to rescue could be

in Uruguay?”

“That’s possible, but unlikely.”

“Have you had the opportunity to meet Comandante Duffy of the Argen-

tine Gendarmería Nacional, Colonel?” Ordóñez asked. “I know he was hoping

to talk to you.”

“I met Comandante Duffy this morning.”

“Did he tell you that two of his men have been murdered, and two kid-

napped, presumably by the same people who have taken your man?”


2 9 9

Castillo nodded.

“Did he tell you what he intends to do to the people who have done this?

Or who he thinks may have done this?”

“He didn’t spell it out in so many words, but he made it pretty clear that

he intends to take them out.”

“He intends not only to kill them, but to leave their bodies where they fall,

as an example of what happens to people who murder gendarmes.”

Castillo nodded.

“Much as you did with the people at Shangri-La,” Ordóñez added.

Castillo met his eyes for a moment.

Castillo then softly but angrily said, “Sorry, Ordóñez, I can’t— won’t—let

you get away with equating what happened at Shangri-La with the cold-blooded

murder of Duffy’s gendarmes.”

“You’re not going to deny that there were six bodies—seven, counting

Lorimer’s corpse—left lying in pools of blood at Estancia Shangri-La, are

you, Colonel?”

“Actually, eight men died at the estancia,” Castillo said, his voice rising. “I

lost one of my men, and we damn near lost Alfredo. But we acted in self-

defense. They opened fire on us, without warning. We returned it. They died.

What the hell were we supposed to do, call a priest, give them the last rites, and

bury them?”

“José,” Munz said evenly. “Colonel Castillo went to Estancia Shangri-la

with plans to take Lorimer back—alive—to the United States. Violence was nei-

ther planned nor expected.”

“And you went with him, Alfredo, fully aware that kidnapping is just as

much a crime in Uruguay as it is in Argentina,” Ordóñez said.

Munz, his eyes narrowed, nodded.

“And was making off with Lorimer’s sixteen million dollars planned or


“We didn’t know about the money until we went into Lorimer’s safe,”

Castillo said.

“So you’re admitting you stole the money?”

Neither Castillo nor Munz replied.

“What did you do with the money?”

“Alfredo and I spent most of it on whiskey and wild women,” Castillo said.

Ordóñez stared at him coldly.

“So tell me, Ordóñez, what happens now?” Castillo asked after a moment.

“You escort us to the Buquebus?”

“Excuse me?”

3 0 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Well, obviously, our coming here has been a waste of time; you’re not

going to help us. But on the other hand, we’ve given you no reason to arrest

us; we’ve broken none of your laws.”

“Not today,” Ordóñez allowed. “Except, of course, the small matter of try-

ing to get a senior police official to acquiesce in your violation of the laws of

his country.”

“We came to ask your help, José,” Munz said with an edge in his voice.

“Help in getting a fellow police officer—who happens to be an American—back

from the hijos de puta who kidnapped him.”

“The hijos de puta who have him also have two of Duffy’s gendarmes,” Or-

dóñez replied evenly. “And have brutally murdered two of his gendarmes. And

that’s what worries me, Alfredo. That’s who worries me.”

“The narcos or Duffy?” Munz asked.

“You and I both know, Alfredo, that these people are not ordinary narcos.

If they were, I’d probably be hoping—may God forgive me—that Duffy

would be leaving bodies not suitable for viewing in their caskets all over Cor-

rientes and Entre Ríos Provinces and, for that matter, Paraguay. He’s right that

the kidnapping—and the murder—of police officers cannot be tolerated, and

that leaving bullet-riddled bodies on the side of the road, or at narcotics refin-

ing plants, would send that message far more effectively than running them

through a justice system where, sadly, justice is often for sale.”

Ordóñez paused a moment.

“But,” he went on, “as I say, these are not ordinary narcos. Major Alejan-

dro Vincenzo of the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia is proof of that.”

Castillo thought: How the hell does he know that—and how the hell much

more does he know?

“Excuse me?” Castillo asked.

“Certainly someone of your background, Colonel, has considered that Vin-

cenzo was here—possibly, even probably, in Paraguay—long before Lorimer

went missing in Paris. And as ‘their’ man on the scene was available to super-

vise the very professional kidnapping of Mrs. Masterson and the subsequent

murder of her husband, when they wanted to locate Lorimer. And their sixteen

million dollars.”

“Can you define ‘they’ and ‘their’?” Castillo asked.

“Obviously, Vincenzo was a Cuban. But what is the connection between

the Russian FSB and the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia? There

are two possibilities: One, no connection here in this instance; Vincenzo

was here to (a) make money from the drug trade and (b) cause what trouble he

could in the interests of Cuba. Or, two, the Russians are involved, for the same


3 0 1

purposes—making money and causing trouble. I place more credence in the lat-

ter in no small measure because of the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Viktor

Zhdankov of the FSB in Punta del Este, and the presence of your friend Alek-

sandr Pevsner.”

“So far as I know, Pevsner is not under the FSB,” Castillo said. “And, as a

matter of fact, he as much as admitted to me that he had Zhdankov and

Kennedy eliminated in Punta del Este.”

“I suspected that, of course. And I appreciate your candor. Which leads us

right now to what I was going to come to eventually. From this point on, we

will tell each other the truth. Duffy has lied to me—”

“About what?” Munz asked.

“It doesn’t matter, Alfredo. But it is one more reason that I am worried about

him and this situation. I want to have nothing whatever to do with him as he

goes after these narcos.”

“Does that bring us back to my question about you escorting us to the

Buquebus terminal?” Castillo asked.

“Listen to what I am saying, please, Colonel. I said I wanted to have noth-

ing to do with Duffy in what he’s going to do. I am prepared, with the under-

standing that we will tell each other the truth, to help you with your helicopters.

The truth about everything, and that includes el Señor Pevsner.”

Castillo met his eyes.

“So far as I know,” Castillo repeated, “Pevsner is not under the FSB. That’s

the truth. He almost certainly has flown things around for them, but he has also

flown things around for the CIA. But, again, so far as I know, he is no more an

asset of the Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti than he is an asset of the Cen-

tral Intelligence Agency.”

Munz added: “And—other than what Carlos has just said—I found no

connection between him and the FSB when I worked for him.”

Ordóñez looked at Munz a moment, nodded, then said, “I have to ask you

something, Alfredo.”

Munz made a Go on gesture.

“When you worked for him,” Ordóñez said, “who were you working for?”

“Argentina,” Munz said. “But, since we’re telling the truth, I never turned

the money Pevsner paid me over to SIDE.”

“One more indelicate question, old friend, I have to ask. Who are you

working for now?”

“I am working for Carlos,” Munz said, met Castillo’s eyes, then looked

back at Ordóñez. “But we have the unspoken agreement between us that I am

not working—and will not work—against Argentina. In this case, it should go

3 0 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

without saying that these hijos de puta—or whoever else, the Dirección Gen-

eral de Inteligencia and/or the FSB—are working against the best interests of

my country. My conscience is clear, José. Before God, I have not, will not, sell

out my country.”

“Thank you,” Ordóñez said. “The problem we have here—I’m sure you will

agree—is that Duffy also believes he’s working for his country. And can’t—or

doesn’t want to—understand that his duty to Argentina is to turn over what he

has to SIDE, and not embark on this mission to murder whoever killed and kid-

napped his men.” He let that sink in for a moment, then added, “I don’t want

you—by you, I mean you and Colonel Castillo—working with Duffy.”

“And you think I want to?” Castillo said. “What if I have to?”

“Then I can’t permit you to bring your helicopters into Uruguay.”

“All I want to do is refuel helicopters at Estancia Shangri-La. They would

be on the ground less than an hour, and they would not be coming back.”

“An hour or two, plus whatever time it took them to reach the estancia, and

then to leave Uruguayan air space,” Ordóñez corrected him.

“That’s right,” Castillo said.

“If I had your word, and Alfredo’s, I could arrange it so that you will not

be working with Duffy.”

“I can’t give you my word,” Castillo said. “It’s going to be hard—impossible—

for me not to work with Duffy. Duffy’s told me that unless I can get my supe-

riors to order me to work under his orders and share my assets with him, I will

have to leave Argentina within twenty-four hours. And I have to say this: If you

hadn’t run at the mouth, I wouldn’t have that problem.”

Ordóñez considered that a moment, then almost visibly decided not to

take offense.

“I ‘ran at the mouth’—an interesting phrase—before I understood what

Duffy was planning to do. And before I discovered that he had lied to me.”

“But the cow’s out of the barn. It doesn’t matter who opened the barn door

or when or why. The damage has been done.”

“And have your superiors ordered you to work with Duffy?”

Castillo hesitated before replying.

“Okay. Truth time. I have not asked my superior. But I’m going to call

Duffy, very soon, and tell him that I have been ordered to do whatever he

wants me to do.”

“You’re taking that responsibility on yourself?”

“I have been ordered to get an American Drug Enforcement Administra-

tion agent back from his kidnappers. The order carried with it the authority to

do whatever I have to do to get him—his name is Timmons—back. There is


3 0 3

no point in me calling my superior when I know his answer will be to do what-

ever I have to do.”

Ordóñez nodded.

“Colonel,” he said, “let me tell you about my superior, superiors. Nominally,

I am under the authority of the minister of the interior. But when a situation

has international implications, I get my directions from the foreign minister as

well. Actually—for purposes of credible deniability—I get them from Deputy

Foreign Minister Alvarez.

“It was Alvarez who decided with me that it was in the best interests of

Uruguay to ascribe the murder of Lorimer at his estancia, the murders of Lieu-

tenant Colonel Viktor Zhdankov of the FSB and Howard Kennedy in Punta

del Este, and of course the deaths of Major Vincenzo and his five friends at

Shangri-La to internecine warfare in the drug business.

“I don’t know—and don’t want to know—what, if anything, Alvarez told

the foreign minister about what we had done, but there was no pressure from

either the Foreign Ministry or the Interior Ministry on me to zealously pursue

the people responsible for all those deaths.” He paused, then added, “Which,

of course, would have included you and your men.

“It seemed to be the best solution to the problem. While murder is a terri-

ble crime, no Uruguayans had been murdered. Kennedy and Zhdankov were

buried beside Vincenzo and the others in graves marked ‘Unknown’ in the Sa-

cred Heart of Jesus church cemetery in Tacuarembó.

“David Yung—through the American embassy—was repatriating the re-

mains of Lorimer, and it seemed unlikely that the Russians or the Cubans

would ask questions about Zhdankov or Vincenzo. And you and I had the lit-

tle chat in which I suggested you should leave Uruguay and not come back soon.

When you agreed to do so, I thought the matter was closed.

“I was wrong about that, of course. The day before Duffy called me—two

days before he came here—Alvarez told me our ambassador in Washington

had called him to report that Senator Homer Johns . . .”—he paused and

looked at Castillo to see if he knew who he was talking about, and when Castillo

nodded, went on—“. . . to ask him what he could tell him—officially or

otherwise—about the death of Lorimer, or if he had heard anything about your

Special Forces having conducted an operation in Uruguay.”

“And what did the ambassador tell him?” Castillo asked.

“That Lorimer was involved in the drug trade, and that he had heard noth-

ing about Special Forces operating secretly in Uruguay. The senator then asked

him to discreetly inquire again, and the ambassador agreed to do so.

“As it happens, the ambassador and I are old friends—Uruguay is a

3 0 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

small country, and we have a saying, ‘Don’t worry if you don’t know someone,

he’ll marry into your family by the end of the week.’ But the ambassador and I

are friends from school, and you’ll remember it was he who I turned to for

help in identifying the 7.62mm National Match cartridge case we found at


“So, unofficially, I called him to see what else Senator Johns had had on his

mind. He told me that the senator had told him he’d gone to see Ambassador

Charles W. Montvale, who as your director of National Intelligence could be

presumed to know about such things, and that Montvale had denied any prior

knowledge of Lorimer’s involvement in the drug trade and denied any knowl-

edge of a Special Forces operation in Uruguay.”

Ordóñez looked more intensely at Castillo.

“I’ve always suspected Montvale is the man you answer to, Colonel.

Do you?”

Castillo shook his head.

“I thought we were agreed to tell one another the truth,” Ordóñez said.

“I don’t work for Ambassador Montvale.”

“For whom, then? The secretary of Defense?”

Castillo shook his head again.

“Ah, then, the secretary of State,” Ordóñez said, clearly pleased with him-

self. “Of course. I should have thought of that. It explains a great deal. The au-

thority you wielded in your embassy in Buenos Aires; the decision to keep

Ambassador McGrory in the dark about your operation.”

“I don’t work for Secretary Cohen, either,” Castillo said.

Ordóñez’s face showed that not only did he not believe that, but that the

denial offended him.

Munz caught that, and said, “He doesn’t, José.”

“Well, who does he work for? Do you know?”

Munz was quiet a moment, then laughed.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “But if I told you, I’d have to kill you.”

“What did you say?” Ordóñez asked incredulously.

“It’s a useful phrase I’ve learned working for Carlos,” Munz said.

“It’s not said seriously?”

“You never know, José,” Munz said. “You’re not going to put it to the test,

are you?”

“I may not be Sherlock Holmes,” Ordóñez said to Castillo, “but after we

eliminate Montvale and your secretaries of State and Defense, there’s not many

people left, are there, from whom you could be taking orders?”

“What else did you learn from your old pal the ambassador?” Castillo asked,

ignoring the question.


3 0 5

Ordóñez looked at him for a long moment, as if deciding whether or not

to pursue the question of who gave Castillo his authority and orders. Finally,

he said: “He said that he had the distinct feeling that Senator Johns would like

nothing more than proof that there had been a secret Special Forces operation

in Uruguay and that Montvale had lied to him about it.”

“Perhaps he doesn’t like Ambassador Montvale. A lot of people don’t,”

Castillo said. “I don’t like him much myself. But I would hate to see him em-

barrassed by Senator Johns.”

“And so would I,” Ordóñez said. “Because that would mean the decision

Alvarez and I made about everything would come to light. The Cubans—and

probably the Russians, too—would go to the United Nations to righteously de-

nounce Uruguay—”

“I get the picture,” Castillo interrupted. “And you’re right, of course.”

“—for not only permitting the imperialist Yankees to send their infamous

Special Forces to murder innocent Cuban tourists and Czechoslovakian busi-

nessmen on Uruguayan soil, but then to shamelessly deny it.”

Castillo was silent for a moment, then he said: “Just for the record . . .

oh, hell.”

“Go on,” Ordóñez said.

“I was going to split a hair,” Castillo said. “My people at Shangri-La were

not all Special Forces. It was not an SF unit that was sent here.”

“I don’t think, whatever the legalities, that anyone will believe that.”

“That’s what I decided. And the people who came here now to rescue Tim-

mons are bona fide Special Forces.”

“They’re already here?”

“Just about all of them,” Castillo said. “And the helicopter pilots are from

the 160th—the Special Operations Aviation Regiment.”

“And the helicopters, too, presumably?”

“No. I got the helicopters from a graveyard. By the time they get here,

they’ll be cleaned and black—”

“ ‘Cleaned and black’?” Ordóñez parroted.

“Anything that could indicate they belong to the U.S. Army will be re-

moved. And they’ll be painted in the color scheme used by the Argentine Army.

They’ll be more or less identical to the Hueys the Argentines are flying.”

“And if nothing goes wrong and you manage to rescue your man without

murdering everyone whoever so much as talked to the narcos, how do you plan

to get your men and the helicopters out of Argentina or Paraguay?”

If he’s not going to let me use Shangri-La to bring the choppers in, Castillo

thought, what the hell does he care about the details of what’s-not-to-happen?

What the hell is he hinting at?

3 0 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“The men will leave the same way they came in, as tourists. I haven’t given

much thought to the helicopters.”

“You weren’t planning on flying them back to where they came from?”

“The ‘field’ from which they will have been flown into Uruguay is an air-

craft carrier—the USS Ronald Reagan. By the time I can get Timmons back, it

will have sailed around Cape Horn and be halfway up the Pacific coast to Val-

paraiso, Chile.”


“I understand some of the lakes in Argentina are very deep,” Castillo said.

“You’re not suggesting that you intend to . . . sink four helicopters in an Ar -

gentine lake?”

What the hell’s going on here?

Why the curiosity? And it’s damned sure not idle curiosity!

“What else would you suggest I do with them? I can’t just leave them in a

field somewhere. Or, for that matter, destroy them, torch them. They have to

disappear. My orders are to come down here quietly, get Timmons back qui-

etly, and leave quietly.”

“Tell me, Colonel, are helicopters of this type readily available on the com-

mercial market?”


“But wouldn’t there be some means of tracing their history? All the way back

to the factory?”

“The communists captured several hundred of them when Vietnam fell.

Many of those have appeared at various places around the world.”

Ordóñez nodded and asked, “Involved with criminal activity of some sort?”

Castillo nodded.

I’ll be a sonofabitch.

Does Mr. Clean, who Munz warned me was above taking a bribe, want

my birds?

Confirmation of that wild theory came immediately.

“It would then be credible, if your helicopters somehow made their way to

a field somewhere in Uruguay, for me to find them and announce that they

probably had been in the use of drug dealers. Criminals who arrived at the field

to refuel them, found no fuel, and had to abandon them.”

“Whereupon they would enter the service of the Policía Nacional?”

Castillo said.

Ordóñez nodded, then asked, “Parts would be available for them?”

“Ordóñez, if you let me refuel the choppers at Shangri-La, I’ll fly them any-

where in Uruguay you say when I’m finished my operation. Even if I have to

fly them there myself.”


3 0 7

When Ordóñez didn’t immediately reply, Castillo added: “And I will get

you all the parts you need for them. Either through government channels,

or black.”

“This ‘black’ would be better,” Ordóñez said. “It would continue to keep

Ambassador McGrory out of the picture. Also, it would be better if you had

someone other than yourself bring them back into Uruguay, Colonel.”

“Then we have a deal?” Castillo asked.

Ordóñez nodded and exhaled audibly.

“But let me clarify it, Colonel. I don’t think it’s quite what you’re thinking.

You haven’t bribed me with a gift of helicopters for which you will no longer

have a need and which in fact give you a disposal problem. What they repre-

sent is a sugar pill for me to accompany the bitter one I have to swallow—that

of assisting you in an operation which is really none of my business and which

I am really afraid is going to end in a disaster.

“I realized that I was going to have to help you, not because I want to, but

because I have no choice but to hope—even pray—that you are successful.

Your failure would be a disaster for me. Do we understand each other?”

Castillo nodded.

Ordóñez went on, “You mentioned the Buquebus. Why don’t you fly back

to Buenos Aires?”

Castillo pointed at Max, who was lying beside him with his head between

his paws, and said, “Yung told me that taking him on Austral or Aerolíneas

would be very difficult.”

Ordóñez considered that, then said: “And even if I helped you overcome the

difficulties, it would still attract attention. Let me make a suggestion: If you

could arrange to have someone meet you at the customs house at the Interna-

tional Bridge at Fray Bentos–Gualeguaychús, I’ll fly you there in one of the

Policía Nacional Hueys. We have four very old ones, two of which are flyable.

It will perhaps make you understand why I am so interested in yours.”

“That’s very kind of you, José,” Munz said.

“You, Alfredo, and your animal. Anyone else?”

“My communicator.”

“Give me an hour to set it up,” Ordóñez said. “Call me when you’re

ready to go.” He stood up. “I presume Alfredo will keep me advised of what’s


Castillo nodded.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Ordóñez said, offering Castillo his hand.

He embraced Munz, went through the hug-and-kiss rite, and walked out of the


3 0 8


. E . B . G R I F F I N


Embassy of the United States of America

Lauro Miller 1776

Montevideo, República Oriental del Uruguay

1835 9 September 2005

The Honorable Michael A. McGrory, the ambassador extraordinary and pleni-

potentiary of the President of the United States to the Republic of Uruguay,

was a small and wiry, well-tailored man of fifty-five with a full head of curly

gray hair. His staff referred to him as “Napoleon” and “Señor Pomposo.” Mc-

Grory looked across his highly polished wooden desk at Special Agent David

W. Yung, who sat beside Colin Leverette. Robert Howell, the embassy’s cultural

attaché, stood near the door.

McGrory smiled and said to Yung, “If you’ll be good enough to give me a

minute alone with Mr. Howell—I need to speak with him on another matter—

you can be on your way.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ambassador,” Yung said.

“And it’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Leverette. If you need something

for Ambassador Lorimer—anything at all—that either Mr. Yung or Mr. How-

ell can’t arrange, please feel free to come see me at any time.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” Leverette said.

Yung and Leverette stood up, shook the ambassador’s hand, and walked out

of the ambassador’s office, closing the door behind them.

“Well, Howell, what do you think?” McGrory asked.

“What do I think about what, Mr. Ambassador?” Howell replied.

While officially the cultural attaché of the embassy, Howell was in fact the

CIA’s Uruguay station chief.

“What do we really have here?”

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t see anything odd in Lorimer’s father coming down here to live

on that estancia in the middle of nowhere? With a butler?”

“I thought that was pretty well explained when Yung told us the ambassador

lost his home in Hurricane Katrina, sir.”

“And the presence of Yung? That didn’t strike you as unusual?”

“I can think of a likely scenario, sir.”

“Let’s have it.”

“It could very well be that the secretary, who I think has known the am-

bassador a long time, went out of her way to do what she could for the


3 0 9

ambassador. She knows he has a heart condition. His son-in-law was murdered,

and right after Mr. Masterson’s remains were repatriated, the hurricane struck

and destroyed the ambassador’s home.”

“Huh!” the ambassador snorted.

“And Yung, who was on the secretary’s personal staff—”

“We learned after the fact,” McGrory interrupted. “Nobody knew that

when he was here.”

“Yes, sir. Well, he was available. He was still accredited diplomatically

down here. Yung probably struck her as the obvious choice to come here and

set things up.”

“Traveling in a private Gulfstream jet airplane. I wonder what that


“I don’t like to think, Mr. Ambassador. But on the other hand, we know

the ambassador’s daughter came into her husband’s money. And we know how

much of that there is. It poses no financial strain on her to charter airplanes.

Or, for that matter, to pay for the private security people who will be coming

here with the ambassador.”

“And none of this strikes you as suspicious?”

“I don’t know what to suspect, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Years ago, Howell, there was a terribly racist saying to the effect that one

suspected an African-American in the woodpile.”

“I’m familiar with the expression, sir, but I don’t know what Ambassador

Lorimer could be concealing.”

“I’m not referring to Ambassador Lorimer,” Ambassador McGrory said im-

patiently, stopping himself just in time from finishing the sentence with

you idiot!

“You’re referring to the butler, sir? Leverette?”

McGrory stared at Howell and thought, I can’t believe this. This man works

for the Central Intelligence Agency?

If he’s typical, and I suspect he is, they should call it the Central Stupidity Agency.

“No,” Ambassador McGrory said carefully, aware he was on the edge of

losing his temper. After a moment, hoping his contempt wasn’t showing, he

went on, “That was a figure of speech, Howell, a figure of speech only. I was

suggesting that there’s something about this whole sequence of events that

doesn’t seem . . .”—he stopped himself just in time from saying kosher—“. . .

quite right.”

“And what is that, Mr. Ambassador?” Howell asked.

“If you’ve been in this business as long as I have, Howell, you develop a

sense, a feeling,” McGrory explained somewhat smugly.

3 1 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“I understand,” Howell said. “How may I help, Mr. Ambassador?”

“You can keep a close eye on Yung and that man Leverette. See if they do

anything suspicious; see who they talk to.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I think the best way to handle this is just report everything you see or hear.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any time of the day or night.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ambassador McGrory dismissed Howell with a wave of his hand, then rose

from his desk and walked to the window. It provided a view of the Rambla, the

road that ran along the Atlantic Ocean beach.

The water was muddy because it bore all the silt—and God only knows

what else—from the River Plate. It didn’t become clear—really become the At-

lantic Ocean—until Punta del Este, a hundred-odd kilometers north.

McGrory stood at the window for perhaps three minutes, debating whether

or not to call his brother-in-law. He really didn’t like Senator Homer Johns.

While McGrory admitted that his brother-in-law had had a lot to do with his

being named ambassador to Uruguay, it was also true that Homer not only re-

minded him of this entirely too often, but accompanied the reminder with

some snide observation about McGrory’s slow movement up the ranks of the

foreign service.

McGrory didn’t know why Homer bitterly hated the director of National

Intelligence, Ambassador Charles W. Montvale, but he suspected it was because

Montvale and not Homer had gotten that job when it was created after 9/11.

Homer was on the Senate intelligence committee and thought the job should

have been his.

Homer hadn’t been at all sympathetic when McGrory had called him and

told him how the deputy foreign minister, Alvarez, had as much as called him

a liar in his own office when he had told him that there were no Special Forces

teams operating in Uruguay; that anything like that could not take place with-

out his permission.

And the senator hadn’t been at all impressed when McGrory told him that

he had figured out what had really happened with Lorimer at his estancia—that

Lorimer had been a big-time drug dealer on the side, using his United Nations

diplomatic passport whenever that helped.

The first time he’d told that to the senator, the senator’s reply had been

“Mike, that’s the most absurd bullshit you’ve ever tried to hand me.”

And Homer hadn’t even apologized when McGrory had called him to re-

port (a) the Uruguayan cops had finally figured out what had happened, a drug


3 1 1

deal gone bad, just as McGrory had said, and (b) that he had gotten this from

Deputy Foreign Minister Alvarez, together with an apology for what Alvarez had

said to him in the beginning.

He’d gotten back a little at Homer—he didn’t want to go too far with that,

of course; there were more important diplomatic posts than Uruguay, and his

brother-in-law could be helpful again in that regard—the last time Homer

had called.

Homer said he’d just gotten word from a good source—a woman who had

been canned by the CIA and was highly pissed—that Montvale had indeed sent

a Special Forces team to Uruguay to keep Lorimer from running off at the

mouth. Homer said she’d also supplied the name of the guy in charge: Castillo.

McGrory had smiled knowingly at the purported news.

“Homer,” he’d said, “I know all about Castillo. He works for the Depart-

ment of Homeland Security, and he just happened to be in Argentina and

was put in charge of protecting the Masterson family until they could get out

of Argentina. That’s all. He’s a lousy major, is all. I think your source is full

of shit.”

“You know about this Castillo, do you?”

“Yes, I do. Lorimer was killed by drug people, not by Special Forces.”

“I don’t know, Mike, my source sounded pretty sure of herself.”

“Why did she come to you, Homer? As an outraged citizen? Or a disgrun-

tled employee trying to make trouble for the CIA? Why’d she get fired?”

“She didn’t tell me that,” Homer had said, and then added: “She does have

a reputation around town for sleeping around.”

“Well, there you have it, Homer.”

“Maybe. But what I want you to do anyway, Mike, is keep your eyes and

ears open. I want to hear of anything at all that happens down there that’s out

of the ordinary. Let me decide whether or not it’s important.”

Okay, Ambassador McGrory thought, still looking out his window at the

muddy waters of the River Plate, on the one hand, while Ambassador Lorimer

coming down here is a little odd, it is true that New Orleans is under water, and

that his daughter, Masterson’s widow, now has her hands on that sixty million dol-

lars Jack the Stack got when that beer truck ran over him. So having a butler and

flying around in a chartered jet airplane isn’t so strange.

What the hell could a retired old ambassador with a heart condition be into

but waiting to die?

And on the other hand, Homer said he wants to hear anything out of the or-

dinary; to let him decide what’s important.

So I’ll call him and tell him about this.

3 1 2


. E . B . G R I F F I N

And he can run it past his source, the lady with the round heels reputation who

got canned from the CIA, and see what she has to say.

And when some other post—Buenos Aires, for example—comes open, he can re-

member how useful I have been to him whenever he asked for something.

McGrory went to his desk, picked up the telephone, and told the oper-

ator to get Senator Homer Johns—and not anyone on Johns’s staff—on a

secure line.


Suite 2152

Radisson Montevideo Victoria Plaza Hotel

Plaza Independencia 759

Montevideo, República Oriental del Uruguay

1915 9 September 2005

“How’d it go, Dave?” Castillo asked as Yung, Howell, and Leverette came into

the room.

“I didn’t tell McGrory that Jake and Sparkman were from the Presidential

Flight Detachment—”

“Jesus Christ!” Robert Howell suddenly said as Max walked toward him.

“Where’d that dog come from?”

“I keep him around to eat people who don’t do what I tell them,” Castillo

said. “Why didn’t you, Dave?”

“I thought it would be better to let him think the Gulfstream was a


Castillo considered that a moment.

“Good thinking. You were right and I was wrong,” he said. “And he

bought that?”

Yung nodded. “But after that, I wondered if he was going to wonder why

I had sent the pilots of a chartered aircraft out to my apartment and not to

a hotel.”

“And you think he will?”

“I don’t know. But it’s too late to do anything about it.”

“Even if he actually comes looking for them, it’s not a problem,” Munz said.

“While you were telling the manager about your seizure problem, Jake gave

them his credit card for this room; it’s in his name.”

“ ‘Seizure problem’?” Howell asked.

“Don’t ask,” Yung said. “It will make you question the sanity of our



3 1 3

“I asked how it went,” Castillo said.

“I don’t think there’s a problem,” Howell said. “So how’d you make out

with Ordóñez?”

“We get to use the estancia . . . Dave told you what’s going down?”

Howell nodded.

“Ordóñez gets the choppers when we’re through with them. But, and this

is important, he gets them—what did he say?—as a sugar pill to accompany the

bitter one he has to swallow of helping us to help Duffy in something that’s

none of his business. In other words, it wasn’t a bribe.”

Howell nodded.

“So what happens now?” he asked.

“How are you planning to go to the estancia, Dave?” Castillo said.

“My car is fixed. I really can’t believe it. The last time I saw it, it was full of

double-aught buckshot holes.”

“Okay. That means you can take the radio with you. Colin’ll need com-

munication, but not a communicator, right, butler?”

Leverette replied with a thumbs-up gesture.

“I don’t see any need for you to drive all the way out there and then back,

do you, Bob?”

Howell shook his head.

“Ordóñez is going to chopper us to the international bridge at—what’s the

name of that place, Alfredo?”

“Gualeguaychú,” Munz furnished, making it sound like Wally-wha-chew.

“Where someone—one of us—will meet us and drive us into Buenos Aires.”

“Not to the safe house?”

“I’m going to the Four Seasons, where I will entertain Comandante Duffy

at breakfast. But on the way to . . . wherever the international bridge is.”

“Gualeguaychú,” Munz repeated.

“How do you spell it?”

Munz spelled Gualeguaychú.

“No wonder I can’t pronounce it,” Castillo said. “On the way to Wally-wha-

chew I’m going to suggest to Ordóñez that he go home by way of the estancia.

A couple of words from him to the local cops who are sitting on the place will

make Colin’s job easier and get them accustomed to helicopters dropping

in unannounced.”

Yung nodded.

“You seem to be in pretty good spirits, Charley.”

“Compared to this morning, you mean?”

Yung nodded.

“This morning, after meeting with the Evil Leprechaun, I thought this op -

3 1 4


. E . B . G R I F F I N

eration had no chance at all of succeeding. Now I think the odds are one in,

say, eight or ten that we can carry it off. That’s a hell of an improvement,

wouldn’t you say?”



Presidente de la Rua Suite

The Four Seasons Hotel

Cerrito 1433

Buenos Aires, Argentina

0700 10 September 2005

“Fuck it,” Castillo said, more or less to himself. “We can either carry this off or

we can’t. And I don’t think the Evil Leprechaun would be dazzled by uniforms.

Yours or mine or both of ours. So it’s civvies, Pegleg. Go change back.”

Wrapped in a plush, ankle-length, terry-cloth robe with the Four Seasons

logo embroidered on the chest, Castillo was in the large sitting room, standing

by the plateglass windows that offered a view of the Retiro railway station and,

at a distance, the River Plate.

First Lieutenant Eddie Lorimer, wearing a Class A uniform complete to

green beret and ribbon decorations—and there was an impressive display of rib-

bons—stood between Castillo and the others in the room, the latter seated on

couches and chairs and at the dining table.

Edgar Delchamps, reclined in one of the armchairs with his legs stretched

straight before him, cleared his throat.

“For what it’s worth, Ace,” he began, “I agree with you. But that leaves

unanswered the question of how do we dazzle the bastard?”

“Looking at the beautiful Mrs. Sieno just now, I realized how,” Castillo said,

and gestured at Susanna Sieno, who was sitting at the dining table. Her hus-

band was on one of the couches, seated beside Tony Santini.

“Why do I think I’m not going to like this?” Susanna Sieno asked.

“Females are masters of deception,” Castillo said. “They’re born with the

ability, which is why they run the world.”


3 1 5

Mrs. Sieno gave Lieutenant Colonel Castillo an unladylike gesture, ex-

tending her center finger from her balled fist in an upward motion.

Castillo gestured dramatically toward her.

“Exactly! Right there the lady proves my point. Complete control. And

how do they do that? They wing it, that’s how. And that’s what we’re

going to do.”

When there was no response, save for several raised eyebrows, Castillo went

on: “Think about it, lady and gentlemen. What we have in here are spooks,

cops, soldiers, and, of course, a Marine.”

He smiled at Corporal Lester Bradley, USMC, who was sitting at a

small desk on which sat an AFC Corporation communications console.

Bradley wore a dark gray Brooks Brothers suit—one of two identical garments,

the first suits he had ever owned. Dick Miller told Castillo that he had taken

Lester to Brooks Brothers in Washington as a morale booster after the Secret

Service agents at the house kept treating him like an errand boy. Max, lying at

Bradley’s feet, had one paw on his highly polished black leather loafers. Due to

the peso exchange rate, Bradley had acquired them for next to nothing—

“Thirty bucks U.S.,” he’d told Castillo, “for what would’ve run me more than

a hundred back home—at one of the luxury leather-goods stores in downtown

Buenos Aires.

“None of us are actors,” Castillo went on in explanation. “And even if we

were, we don’t have time before Comandante Duffy shows up to write a script

and memorize our lines. And even if we did that, sure as God made little ap-

ples we’d either forget them or blow them trying to deliver them. And it would

look rehearsed. So . . . we’ll wing it.”

There was some nodding of understanding around the room.

“What we should do, I think,” Castillo then said, “is make sure we’re all on

the same page, so herewith a recap: We’ve got the helicopters as far as Estancia

Shangri-La, presuming of course there’s no tropical storm off Montevideo to

keep them from flying, and the Navy doesn’t push them over the side or sail

too far from the coast to cover their buttocks.

“One of the reasons Ordóñez came through for us on that is because Duffy

lied to him. I don’t know about what, but he lied to Ordóñez and that pissed

Ordóñez off. Right, Alfredo?”

El Coronel Alfredo Munz, who was sitting in the armchair facing

Delchamps with his legs also stretched out, nodded.

Castillo continued: “We should keep Duffy’s lying in mind. Then the ques-

tion of what to do with the choppers—how to get them near Asunción, how

to refuel them en route, etcetera—comes up. We need Duffy to do all those

3 1 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

things for us plus, of course, reassure any authorities who might spot the chop-

pers that Argentina is not being invaded by the gringos.

“Then we get to the snatch-and-grab itself. We need Duffy not only to

help but to do it our way. I want this op to go down as quietly as possible, which

means I’m going to have to dissuade him from leaving bodies all over the place.

I’ll figure out how to do that later. Right now, getting him under control is the

thing.” He paused. “I can’t think of anything else. Anyone . . . ?”

He looked around the room to see if someone had a better idea. No one did.

“Okay, then,” Castillo said. “Edgar, how about you sitting out the con-

frontation in my bedroom? What I’m thinking is that if we’ve done something

stupid and are about to blow it, you can come in. That would surprise Duffy,

take his mind off what we did wrong. And if you pick up on how we screwed

up, you’ll probably have a fix.”

Delchamps nodded his agreement.

“Okay, Eddie and I will go change clothes. While we’re gone, Alfredo, will

you check on the Aero Commander? We may not need it if we screw this up,

but if we don’t, the sooner we get to Bariloche the better.”

“It’ll be waiting for us at Jorge Newbery, Karl,” Munz said. “The owner owes

me several large favors.”

“Susanna, if you realize we’re screwing up, you might consider flashing

some thigh at him.”

Susanna smiled, shook her head, and gave him the finger again.

The door chime bonged discreetly fifteen minutes later.

Castillo, now wearing a business suit and sitting on the couch as he sipped

at a cup of coffee, signaled first with his right index finger for Eddie Lorimer

to open the door and then, his eyebrows raised, signaled to all by holding up

his right hand with the index and middle fingers crossed.

Everyone in the large sitting room took his meaning: Hope like hell we get

away with this!

Lorimer pulled the door open. Comandante Liam Duffy of the Gen-

darmería Nacional, in civilian clothing, looked somewhat disapprovingly at

Lorimer and then at the others in the room.

Tony Santini and Manuel D’Elia were sitting at the dining table, on which a

room service waiter was arranging tableware around chrome-dome-covered plates.

Alfredo Munz was standing at the plateglass windows, drinking a cup of coffee.

“Well, good morning, Comandante,” Castillo called cheerfully. “You’re just

in time for breakfast.”


3 1 7

He pointed at the dining table.

Duffy, who did not look at all pleased with what he saw, ignored Castillo,

eyed Max warily, looked curiously at the others, then crossed the room to Munz.

“So, Alfredo,” Duffy said stiffly, and went through the hug-and-kiss rite.

Munz did not respond with anything close to warmth.

“Liam,” he said simply.

“So what’s going on, Alfredo? Who are these people?”

“Right now, Comandante,” Castillo replied for him, “you don’t have to

know that.”

“I thought you understood that if we are to work together, I am to know

everything,” Duffy said.

Castillo didn’t immediately reply. Instead—with a grunt—he pushed him-

self off the couch and walked to the dining table. He sat down and waved for

Duffy to take a seat.

“I’ve had my breakfast,” Duffy said curtly.

“Well, have a little more,” Castillo said. “As my much-loved abuela is always

saying, ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you the strength

to attack the day’s problems.’ ”

“I asked who these people are,” Duffy said.

“Maybe we can get to that a little later,” Castillo said.

“I want to know who they are and what they’re doing here,” Duffy said, his

voice rising.

“Or?” Castillo asked, quietly.

“Or what?” Duffy responded.

“I didn’t detect some sort of a threat in that request, did I? I really don’t like

to be threatened.”

“What’s going on here, Colonel?”

“Well, everybody but you is having their breakfast.”

“You remember our conversation yesterday morning, I presume?”

“Yes, of course. Actually, I’ve given it a lot of thought.”

“The twenty-four hours I gave you to leave the country unless your supe-

riors authorize you to place yourself under my orders is about over, Colonel.

And I am not amused by this . . . this whatever it is.”

“Oh, come on, Duffy,” Castillo said. “You didn’t really think that little act

of yours was going to work, did you?” He looked up at Duffy. “You’re sure you

don’t want to sit down and have some of these scrambled eggs? They put little

chopped up pieces of ham in them. Delicious!”

“Coronel Munz, you had best advise your Yankee friend that I’m serious!”

“So is Colonel Castillo serious, Comandante,” Munz said.

3 1 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Actually, Duffy, I’m more of a Texican than a Yankee,” Castillo said.

“Wouldn’t you agree, Manuel?”

“I would say that’s so, Colonel,” D’Elia said.

Duffy glared at D’Elia, as if trying to identify his accent, and then looked

at Castillo.

“On the telephone you said that you had contacted your superiors and—”

“What I actually said,” Castillo interrupted, “was ‘I’ve been in touch with

Washington.’ And then I suggested we have breakfast. And you agreed. But then

you come and say you’ve already had yours.”

“All right, enough,” Duffy said. “I am a man of my word, Colonel. I will

not have you arrested if you leave the country by midnight tonight.”

He walked to the door.

“At midnight tonight, I’ll be somewhere in Patagonia,” Castillo said. “When

I know in which hotel . . .”

“The Llao Llao, Colonel,” Munz furnished. “Confirmation came when you

were in the bathroom.”

“What an odd name,” Castillo said. “The hotel Llao Llao, then, in San Car-

los de Bariloche. I don’t think we have our room numbers yet, but I’m sure the

management will be able to tell you where we are when your people come to

arrest us.”

Duffy turned and looked at him in disbelief and anger.

“Duffy, you’re not going to have me or anyone else arrested, and we both

know that,” Castillo said unpleasantly.

“I’m not?” Duffy flared. “You are under arrest for possession and use of an

unauthorized radio transmitter.”

“You don’t give up, do you?” Castillo said. “Tell him about the radio, Tony.”

“Just to make sure, Comandante,” Santini said, “I checked with the com-

munications ministry. They tell me that a radio telephone such as that is per-

fectly legal.”

“We’ll see about that at the police station,” Duffy said. “You may also con-

sider yourself under arrest, señor.”

Santini forced back a grin.

“There’s a small problem with that, Comandante,” Santini said, straight-

faced. “I’ve got one of these things.” He waved a small plastic carnet. “I’m an

assistant legal attaché at the U.S. embassy. You have no authority to arrest me.”

When Duffy didn’t reply, Santini went on: “I also called the foreign min-

istry and told them that we were registering Nuestra Pequeña Casa at the May-

erling Country Club in Pilar as the official residence of el Señor la Señora

Sieno, which of course—as they also enjoy diplomatic status—gives the house

and grounds diplomatic status and makes it inviolate to search.”


3 1 9

Duffy looked at Castillo.

“You sonofabitch!” Duffy said.

“I’ll tell you this one time, Duffy,” Castillo replied coldly. “You can call me

just about anything you want but a sonofabitch. If you ever call me a sonofabitch

again, I’ll break both of your arms.”

Duffy shook his head in disbelief.

“Alfredo, this man is crazy,” he said. “He has threatened violence—before

witnesses; you, if no one else—against a comandante of the Gendarmería


“I didn’t hear any threats, Liam,” Munz said. “But if you ever hear one, pay

attention. The colonel doesn’t make them idly.”

“Duffy,” Castillo announced, then realized that all of Duffy’s attention—

confused or outraged or both—was focused on Munz.

“Duffy,” he repeated more forcefully.

Duffy finally looked at him.

“Are you going to continue with this nonsense,” Castillo went on, “or shall

we start all over again?”

After a very long moment, Duffy asked, “What do you mean, ‘start all

over again’?”

“Well, I say, ‘Good morning, Comandante. You’re just in time for break-

fast.’ And then you say, ‘How nice. I’m starved.’ And then you come and shake

my hand and sit down. And we have our breakfast, and we start talking about

how we can help each other. You want to try that, Duffy, or do you want to cut

your nose off to spite your face?”

They stared at each other for a long moment.

“Good morning, Comandante,” Castillo said. “You’re just in time for


“I will listen to what you have to say,” Duffy said finally.

“Well, that’s not exactly what I hoped to hear you say,” Castillo said, “but

it’s a start, and I’m willing to bend a little.”

He waved Duffy into a chair and offered him a plate of scrambled eggs and

ham. When Duffy shook his head, Castillo passed the plate to D’Elia.

Then Castillo put several spoonfuls of the egg and ham onto another plate.

There was a basket of hard-crusted baguettes. Castillo took one, broke off a

piece of the bread, then forked egg onto that. He generously applied salt and

pepper, shook several drops of Tabasco on it, then popped the open-faced sand-

wich into his mouth and chewed appreciatively.

“Por favor, mi coronel?” D’Elia asked as he motioned with his hand for the

bottle of hot sauce.

Castillo passed the Tabasco to him.

3 2 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

D’Elia then made a little sandwich much like Castillo’s. Except that D’Elia

was far more liberal with the application of Tabasco. When he had it in his

mouth, his face showed his satisfaction with his efforts. He handed the Tabasco

back to Castillo as Castillo finished constructing another little egg sandwich.

When he had that one in his mouth, he passed the Tabasco to Duffy, who had

been watching impatiently, but who took the bottle as a reflex action.

“I’d be careful with that,” Castillo said. “They make it in Louisiana, and

some men find it a little too spicy.”

Duffy rose to the challenge. After he made himself a chopped ham and

scrambled egg open-faced sandwich, he began to liberally polka-dot it with


“Be careful,” Munz warned.

Duffy popped the little sandwich in his mouth. He chewed and smiled . . .

but then his lips contorted and his face broke out in a sweat.

“La puta madre!” he exclaimed, spitting out the sandwich into a napkin.

“I told you to be careful, and so did Alfredo,” Castillo said, smiling and

shaking his head sympathetically.

Duffy ignored that.

“What is it you wish to say, Colonel?” he said impatiently after taking a

sip of water. “You said we should ‘start talking about how we can help each

other.’ ”

As Castillo began making himself another sandwich, he said, “Pegleg, why

don’t you tell Comandante Duffy what you told us about where you think

these people are holding Special Agent Timmons? And the problems of ex-

tracting him?”

“ ‘Pegleg’?” Duffy said without thinking.

“Show the comandante your leg, Pegleg,” Castillo ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Lorimer said, and hoisted his trouser leg.

“The knee is fully articulated,” he said. “And it’s titanium, so light I hardly

know it’s on there.” Then, without breaking his cadence, he went on: “They’re

more than likely holding Timmons at a remote farm, most likely in Paraguay,

but possibly in Argentina. Another possibility is that he’s being held on a wa-

tercraft of some sort on the Río Paraguay. Wherever it is—”

“Then you don’t know where he’s being held, I gather?” Duffy inter-

rupted sarcastically.

“Not yet,” Castillo answered for Lorimer. “Let him finish, Comandante.”

“Wherever Timmons is being held, it will be difficult to approach without

being detected. The moment they suspect that there will be visitors, they will

take Timmons into the bush or put him in a small boat and hide it along the


3 2 1

shore of the river. A variation of this scenario—a likely one because of their

changed modus operandi—is that they’ve got Timmons at a plant where they

refine the paste into cocaine hydrochloride. That sort of place would also be dif-

ficult to approach without detection—”

“Difficult? Impossible!” Duffy snorted.

“—as it will almost certainly be approachable over only one road. In this

latter scenario, furthermore, there would probably be additional, better-armed

and more-skilled guards, better communication, and a generator, or generators,

to provide the electricity necessary for the refining operation in case the local

power grid goes down. The availability of electricity would probably allow them

to have motion-sensing and other intrusion-detecting devices.”

“May I ask a question, Colonel?” Duffy said.

Castillo gestured that he could.

Duffy looked at Lorimer and said, “Where did you acquire this informa-

tion, señor . . . ? I didn’t get your name.”

“I didn’t give it,” Lorimer said. He looked at Castillo, and when Castillo just

perceptibly nodded, Lorimer went on, “Special Agent Timmons and I were close

in Asunción. We talked.”

“I was not aware that you were friends,” Duffy said. “So were we.”

“If that’s so,” Castillo put in, “then perhaps you might consider devoting

more of your effort to the problem of getting Timmons and your two men back,

instead of planning for the massacre of those who took them.”

Duffy gave him a dirty look but didn’t respond directly.

“How would you deal with the problems you see?” he asked Lorimer. “Start-

ing with locating precisely where Timmons and my men are, presuming

they’re together?”

Castillo answered for him: “We’re working on that as we speak.”

“I’ll let that pass for the moment,” Duffy said to Castillo, then turned back

to Lorimer. “How would you go about rescuing Timmons and my men?”

Lorimer looked to Castillo again for permission. Castillo nodded, and

Lorimer replied, “A simple helicopter assault operation.”

“Like the one staged at Estancia Shangri-La?” Duffy said, more than a lit-

tle sarcastically.

“Not quite,” Castillo said. “Shangri-La was supposed to be a passenger

pickup, not an assault. We were really surprised when those people shot at us.

We’ll go into this one expecting resistance. And act accordingly.”

“How many helicopters do you think you can borrow from Pevsner,

Colonel? How many does he have? Enough for even a ‘simple helicopter assault


3 2 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Excuse me?”

“Isn’t that why you’re going to Bariloche?” Duffy asked, almost tri-

umphantly. “To borrow a helicopter again from that Russian criminal Alek-

sandr Pevsner?”

“No, that’s not why I’m going to Bariloche, not that that is any of your busi-

ness. The helicopters involved in this operation will begin to arrive somewhere

around midnight on the eighteenth of September. In one week, plus one day,

plus however many hours between now and midnight. This is tentative; I haven’t

had much time to plan. And, frankly, I need your help with the planning.”

Castillo noticed that that got Duffy’s attention.

“Between now and then—this is where you come in, Comandante—we are

going to have to set up refueling stations for the helos, a landing field between

where I plan to initially land the aircraft—which is on the playing fields of the

Polo Association in Pilar—and then somewhere near Asunción. The landing

field will need to be big enough for a JP-4 fuel cache for each helo every three

hundred kilometers. And be an isolated field, of course. And we need a base of

operations in Argentina, also isolated, where we can conceal the helicopters from

anyone flying over, and from which we can operate into Paraguay.”

Duffy considered all of this a moment.

“How many helicopters will you have?”

“Four, at least.”

“And you think you’ll be able to fly four U.S. Army helicopters across a

thousand—fifteen hundred—kilometers of Argentina and get away with it?


“U.S. Army helicopters? No. But I don’t think one or two Argentine Army

helicopters flying anywhere—across the pampas or up the Río de la Plata or the

Río Paraguay—are going to attract attention from anybody.”

“Your helicopters will be painted like ours,” Duffy replied, “is that what

you’re saying?”

Castillo nodded, and thought, Now I really have his attention.

I just have to sink the hook.

“Except maybe other Argentine Army helicopters?” Duffy pursued. “Their

pilots might say, ‘I wonder who that is?’ ”

“Mine will be flying nap of the earth, very low—”

“I know what nap of the earth means,” Duffy protested.

“—and will have radar on board, which will permit my pilots to take eva-

sive action should they detect any other aircraft in the vicinity.”

“Like a sudden turn of course which will take them right over an airfield,

or a city?”


3 2 3

“They’re equipped with satellite navigation systems to keep that from hap-

pening,” Castillo said. “And the pilots do this sort of thing for a living.”

“You seem very sure of yourself, Colonel.”

“This is what I do for a living, Comandante,” Castillo said evenly. “Now,

would you like to hear our very preliminary plans for the actual assault? I

really need your input on this.”

Duffy nodded without hesitation.

Got him!

Castillo glanced at Munz, who nodded just perceptibly. Castillo then mo-

tioned at D’Elia.

“This is Captain D’Elia, Comandante,” Castillo said. “He will be in charge

of the actual assault.”

Duffy offered his hand.

“Mucho gusto, mi comandante,” D’Elia said, then glanced at Castillo. “With

your permission, mi coronel?”

“Go ahead,” Castillo said.

“Generally speaking,” D’Elia began, “as I understand we not only intend

to rescue our men but plan to take prisoners—and if we determine our people

are being held at a refinery, or transfer point, to either seize or destroy both the

drugs and the plant itself—”

“You are an Argentine, Capitán?” Duffy interrupted.

“No. But thank you, mi comandante, for your error. I have worked hard on

the Porteño accent.”

“Well, you could have fooled me,” Duffy said.

We all fooled you, Duffy, Castillo thought.

And thank God for that!

I don’t know what the hell I would have done if you had stormed out of here

in a rage right after you came in.

“If I may continue?” D’Elia asked politely, then went on: “If we are to take

prisoners and seize drugs, etcetera, the fact that Lieutenant Lorimer has told us

these places are accessible only by one road works in our favor.”

Duffy’s face was expressionless.

“If there’s only one way in,” D’Elia explained, “there’s only one way out.”

Duffy nodded knowingly.

“That’s where your men will come in, Comandante,” D’Elia continued.

“At the moment the assault begins—we call that ‘boots on the ground’—

the road will have to be cut. Not a moment before, which would alert them,

nor a moment after, as it has been my experience that an amazing number of

rats can get through even a very small hole in a very short period of time

3 2 4


. E . B . G R I F F I N

when they are frightened. And we intend to do our very best to badly frighten


Duffy again nodded his understanding.

Castillo looked at Munz, who very discreetly gave him a thumbs-up signal.

Castillo smiled at him, but thought, Why am I waiting for the other shoe

to drop?


Above San Carlos de Bariloche

Río Negro Province, Argentina

1755 10 September 2005

“There it is,” Alfredo Munz said, pointing.

Castillo, in the pilot seat of the Aero Commander 680, looked where Munz

was pointing out the copilot side window, then banked the high-winged air-

plane to the right so that he could get a better view below.

Darkness was rising, but there was still enough light to see a red-tile-roofed

collection of buildings—the Llao Llao Resort Hotel—sitting on a mountainside

sticking into and several hundred feet above the startling blue waters of a lake.

Lakes, Castillo corrected himself. Lake Moreno and Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Well, it looks like we cheated death again. The airport is only twenty-six clicks

from here.

And I’m only half kidding.

He straightened the wings, then put his hand, palm upward, over his shoulder.

“Let me have the magic black box, navigator,” he said.

Corporal Lester Bradley very carefully laid a small laptop computer in his

hand, and Castillo very carefully lowered it into his lap.

He was navigating using a prototype AFC Global Positioning System de-

vice connected to the laptop. Aloysius Francis Casey himself had warned him

that it was a prototype, its database incomplete, and he really shouldn’t rely on it.

“It’ll take me three, four days to come up with a good data chip for Ar-

gentina and that part of the world, Charley,” Casey had told him in Las Vegas.

“You got somebody down there I can FedEx it to?”

Since Aloysius Francis Casey was a man of his word, presumably the data

chip was on its way—or shortly would be—to Mr. Anthony Santini, Assistant

Legal Attaché, Embassy of the United States of America, Colombia 4300,

Buenos Aires, Argentina.

But the bottom line was that it hadn’t arrived.


3 2 5

Still, what Castillo had—the prototype—looked a helluva lot better to him

than the navigation system he’d found in the cockpit of the Aero Commander

when they’d gone to Jorge Newbery.

There had been a bigger problem than aged avionics when they first went to

get the airplane at Jorge Newbery. The Commander’s owner had presumed that

when Munz had told him he needed to borrow the aircraft, Munz had meant

using the owner’s pilot, and he had shown up with his pilot in tow.

Ordinarily, Castillo was a devout believer in the aviator’s adage “There

are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are very few old, bold pilots.”

And, accordingly, he really would have preferred a pilot experienced in (a) fly-

ing “his” own Aero Commander and (b) flying it around Argentina. Par-

ticularly since Castillo himself had not flown an Aero Commander for a

long time.

But the unspoken problem was that after Bariloche, Castillo planned on

going on to Asunción . . . and intended en route to take the opportunity to

make what the U.S. Army called a low-level visual reconnaissance of the area.

For some wild reason, Castillo believed that (a) the owner would not be too

fond of such an activity and (b) even if the owner gave his blessing, the pilot

would not be experienced in such low-level visual reconnaissance techniques.

After considerable discussion, the Aero Commander’s owner had appar-

ently decided that the “several large favors” he owed to el Coronel Munz out-

weighed his enormous reluctance to turn over his airplane to some gringo friend

of Munz, even if that gringo sounded almost like a Porteño.

The owner’s agreement had come with a caveat: that the owner’s pilot take

the gringo friend for “a couple of touch-and-goes,” what was tactfully explained

as being helpful “to familiarize one with the aircraft.”

And what that familiarization flight had done was convince Castillo that

while the airplane was obviously scrupulously maintained, most of its navigation

equipment had been in its control panel when the aircraft was first delivered—

some forty-odd years earlier. Clearly, none of it was going to be as reliable as

what Aloysius Francis Casey had given Castillo in the form of a prototype lap-

top computer and was worried about his using.

All of this had taken time, of course, and it was quarter to one before

Castillo finally managed to get Colonel Munz, Lieutenant Lorimer, Sergeant

Mullroney, Corporal Bradley, and Max aboard and could take off on what he

announced to the Jorge Newbery tower as “a local area flight, visual flight rules,

destination private field near Pilar.”

3 2 6


. E . B . G R I F F I N

As Castillo retracted the landing gear, he suddenly remembered that another

U.S. Army lieutenant colonel—the most decorated soldier of World War II,

Audie Murphy, who later became a movie star—had been flying in an identi-

cal Aero Commander in 1971 when its wing came off in a thunderstorm over

Roanoke, Virginia. Murphy, also a skilled aviator, crashed to his death.

“Right on the money, Alfredo,” Castillo said, pointing to the GPS satellite map

on the laptop screen. “The airport’s twenty-odd clicks thataway.”

“Pevsner’s place is on the other side of the lake—Moreno,” Munz replied,

and pointed again. “I don’t see how we can get over there tonight. It’ll be dark

by the time we get to the hotel.”

“You’ll think of something, Alfredo. You always do.”

Then he reached for the radio microphone to call the Bariloche tower.


The Llao Llao Resort Hotel

San Carlos de Bariloche

Río Negro Province, Argentina

1955 10 September 2005

The general manager of the Llao Llao was about as unenthusiastic with the no-

tion of providing accommodations to Max as the owner of the Aero Com-

mander had been about turning his airplane over to a rich gringo. But as

Castillo, holding Max’s leash in one hand and his briefcase in his other, watched

Munz discussing this with him, he knew that Munz was going to prevail.

And at the precise moment Castillo reached this conclusion, the problem

of how to meet Aleksandr Pevsner at his home across the lake now that it was

dark—really dark; there was no moon—solved itself.

“Mama!” a young female voice said enthusiastically in Russian. “Look at

that dog!”

“Stay away from him!” a mother’s voice warned.

Castillo turned.

Twenty or thirty feet down the wide, high-ceilinged, thickly carpeted lobby,

there stood a tall, dark-haired, well-dressed man in his late thirties. With him

was a striking blond woman—“Mama”—and a girl of thirteen or fourteen

whose own blond hair hung down her back nearly to her waist —My God,

Elena’s about as old as Randy!— and two boys, one about age six, and the other

maybe ten.


3 2 7

Behind them stood two burly men. One of them Castillo knew, but only

by his first name, János. He was Pevsner’s primary bodyguard. And János knew

him, even if there was no sign of recognition on his face. Proof of that came

when the other burly man put his hand under his suit jacket—and got a sharp

elbow in the abdomen followed by the slashing motion of János’s hand.

“It’s all right, Anna,” Castillo said to the mother in Russian. “Max only eats

the fathers of pretty girls named Elena.”

Simultaneously, János and Aleksandr Pevsner said, “It’s all right.”

Pevsner looked at Castillo and added: “I thought I saw you—I even asked

János—but we decided, ‘No. What would my friends Charley and Alfredo be

doing in Patagonia with a dog the size of a horse?’ ”

“Can I pet him?” Elena asked. “Does he speak Russian?”

“He speaks dog, Elena,” Castillo said, “but he understands Russian.”

She giggled and went to Max, who sat down and offered his paw. She

scratched his ears, and when he licked her face, she put her arms around

his neck.

“So what are my friends Charley and Alfredo doing in Patagonia with a dog

the size of a horse?” Pevsner asked.

“Would you believe we came to see the fossilized dinosaur bones?”

Castillo said.

“Knowing that you never lie to me, I would have to.”

“How about we heard you would be here and decided to buy you dinner?”

“It would be a strain, but I would have to believe that, too.”

“We need to talk, Alek,” Castillo said.

“That I believe. That’s what I was afraid of,” Pevsner said. “All right, to-

morrow morning. I’ll send the boat for you at, say, half past nine?”

“How about tonight?” Castillo said. “I’m really pressed for time.”

Pevsner obviously didn’t like that, but after a moment, he said, “We came

for dinner. We could talk about what you want to talk about after dinner, if

you like.”

“That would be fine,” Castillo said. “Thank you. And you’ll be my guests

at dinner, of course.”

“That’s not what I meant, as I suspect you know full well, friend Charley.

But faced with the choice between the long face of Elena over dinner—having

been separated from her newfound friend—or breaking bread with you, I opt

for the less painful of the two.”

“Alek!” his wife protested.

“It’s all right, Anna,” Castillo said. “What are friends for if not to insult?”

“I’m afraid that after dinner I will learn what you really think friends are

for,” Pevsner said. “Shall we go in?” He gestured toward the dining room.

3 2 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Elena, the dog goes with the understanding he does not get fed from the

table, understood?”

“Yes, Poppa.”

“I don’t think they’ll let him in there, Alek,” Castillo said. “This isn’t


“Yes, I know,” Pevsner said. “In Patagonia, you have to have a substantial

financial interest in the hotel if you want to bring a dog into the dining room.”

Castillo smiled and shook his head.

The maître d’hôtel appeared, clutching menus to his chest.

“These gentlemen,” Pevsner ordered, indicating Castillo and Munz, “will

be dining with us. Their friends”—he pointed to Lorimer, Mullroney, and

Bradley—“will dine with mine.”

His Spanish was good, even fluent, but heavily Russian-accented.

“Bradley,” Castillo ordered, “go to your room and see if I have any telephone

calls. If it’s important, tell me. Otherwise, just come down here and have

your dinner.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Bradley said.

A waiter arrived with a tray of champagne glasses almost as soon as the head-

waiter had laid their menus before them. Two of the glasses held a bubbling

brown liquid that Castillo decided was Coca-Cola for Sergei and Aleksandr. He

was surprised when Elena was offered and accepted one of the champagne


I don’t need champagne if I’m going to be flying. I’ll just take a sip when we get

to the inevitable toast.

That came almost immediately.

Pevsner got half out of his chair, picked up his glass, and reached out with

it to touch Castillo’s.

“To dear and trusted friends,” Pevsner said, and then moved his glass to tap

the rims of the others, including his daughter’s.

When that was over, Pevsner just about emptied his glass. Elena didn’t do

that, but she took a healthy ladylike sip.

They let her drink? Maybe she is older than Randy.

“When were you born, honey?” Castillo asked her.

“Sixteen November 1992, by the Western calendar,” Elena said.

Jesus Christ! She is almost exactly as old as Randy. Thirteen.

“And her drinking champagne shocks you?” Pevsner said.

“Do you always think the worst of people, Alek?” Castillo asked, and then

he turned to Elena and his mouth went onto autopilot: “What I was thinking,

honey, is that you’re just about the same age as my son.”


3 2 9

Jesus Christ!

I just said “my son” out loud for the first time.

“I didn’t know you had a family, Charley,” Anna said. “You never said


Castillo was aware of Munz’s eyes on him.

“I have a grandmother, a cousin who is more of a brother, and his family.

And a son—Randy—who was also born in November of 1992. He lives with

his mother and her husband.”

“You don’t get to see him?” Elena asked, sympathetically.

“I saw him just a few days ago,” Castillo said. “I gave him flying lessons

as we flew over the Gulf Coast looking at the damage Hurricane Katrina

had done.”

“Was it as terrible as we saw on television?” Anna asked.

“If anything, worse. Unbelievable.”

“Have you got a picture?” Elena asked.

“You’re interested?”

She nodded.

“In my son? Or the hurricane damage?”

She giggled and blushed.

“Both,” she said.

Castillo reached under his chair and picked up his soft leather briefcase.

“What’s that?” Pevsner asked.

“My American Express card. I never leave home without it.”

Pevsner exhaled audibly, smiled, and shook his head.

Castillo took out the envelope of photographs that Sergeant Neidermeyer

had made for him and handed it to Elena.

“Show these to your father and mother when you’re finished,” Castillo said.

“He’s beautiful, Charley,” Pevsner said some moments later. “His eyes are

just like yours.”

So much for the question “Does Abuela know?”

“Boys are ‘handsome,’ Alek,” Castillo said, then glanced at Elena. “Girls

are ‘beautiful.’ ”

She smiled as she flipped to another photo.

“My boys are beautiful,” Pevsner said. “And so is yours.”

The waiter approached, excused his interruption, and said, “A cocktail be-

fore dinner?”

“Ginger ale for the children,” Pevsner ordered. “Very dry vodka martinis,

with onions, for my wife and myself. Alfredo?”

“I would like scotch,” Munz said. “Single-malt Famous Grouse?”

3 3 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

The waiter nodded, and looked at Castillo.

“Nothing for me, thanks, I’m driving.”

“Have one, friend Charley,” Pevsner said. “I never trust a man who doesn’t

drink when I do.”

“You never trust a man, period,” Castillo said.

What the hell.

I’ll just get off the ground in the morning a little later.

“I’ll have what he’s having,” he said to the waiter. “Except hold the vegeta-

bles and vermouth.”


Corporal Lester Bradley appeared at their table about the same time as the ap-

petizers of prosciutto crudo with melon and pâté de foie gras.

“Major Miller would like to speak to you, sir,” Bradley announced. “He said

it’s really important.”

I knew I shouldn’t have had that martini.

“Excuse me, please,” Castillo said, and stood. “I’ll try to cut this as short as

possible. C’mon, Max.”

He signaled for Bradley to lead the way.

Castillo and Max followed him down the lobby to an elevator, which took

them up to the second floor, then down a corridor almost to the end. Bradley

unlocked a hotel room door, waved them ahead of him, and then followed

them inside.

The control console was nowhere in sight, but Castillo saw a DirecTV dish

fastened to the railing of the small balcony and remembered that there was a

repeater mounted in the antenna; no cable was required.

Bradley took the control console from the shelf of a small closet and put it

on a small table barely large enough to hold it.

For a five-star hotel, this room is pretty damn small.

He looked around the room and saw that the only furniture beside the bed

and tiny table was a small chest of drawers and a small upholstered armchair.

The chair was across the room from the table, with the control console now sit-

ting on it.

“Will that work in my room without moving the antenna, Lester? This

room’s pretty small.”

“This is your room, sir,” Bradley replied. “Mine is even smaller.”

A moment later, Bradley announced, “We’re up, sir,” and handed Castillo

what looked very much like an ordinary wireless telephone handset.


3 3 1

“Why don’t you sit, sir?” Bradley asked, nodding at the armchair.

When Castillo settled in the armchair, he learned that it was not only small

but also uncomfortably close to the ground. His head was now as far off the

ground as Max’s, which Max interpreted to mean Castillo wanted to be kissed.

Which he did.

Is this damn place designed for dwarfs?

Castillo looked at the handset. The AFC logo was discreetly molded into

the plastic. He also saw that there was a thin soft black cushion on the earpiece.

Not for comfort. That’s to muffle the incoming voice. Bradley won’t be able to

hear what Miller’s saying, but needs to.

“Put it on speaker, Les,” Castillo said, as he put the handset to his ear.

“Aye, aye, sir,” Bradley said, and when he had pushed the appropriate but-

ton, went to the corridor wall and leaned on it.

It was either that or sit on my bed.

“Hello?” Castillo said into the handset.

“Where the hell have you been, Charley?” Major Richard Miller announced.

“I’ve been trying to raise you for two hours.”

“What’s up?” Castillo replied, and then hurriedly added: “Are we secure?”

“According to my indicators we are.”

“Okay, so what’s so important?”

“Now you’ve got me worried, Charley. I therefore will talk in tongues. Four

of the birds managed to land where they were going without sinking it. The

reason I know this . . . Oh, to hell with it. I think this may damned well be

blown anyway.”

“What may be damned well blown?”

“The reason I know they’re on the carrier is because a bluesuit—a

commander—showed up here to personally deliver to you an Info Copy of

an Urgent from the captain to the CNO. It took me five minutes to get the

bastard to give it to me.”

“What did it say?”

There was a rattling at the door to the hotel room, and it suddenly

swung open.

“What the hell?” Castillo said, and then, “Hold one, Dick.”

Castillo saw that the manager of the hotel was holding the door open for

Pevsner and János.

“I don’t recall inviting you up here,” Castillo said angrily, in Russian.

“We have to talk, friend Charley,” Pevsner said, matter-of-factly, also

in Russian.

“It won’t wait until after dinner?”

Pevsner shook his head, thanked the manager in Spanish, then closed the

3 3 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

door on him. He turned to Castillo and, switching back to Russian, asked, “Do

you have a weapon?”

“No, but Bradley does,” Castillo said, and pointed at Corporal Bradley.

Bradley held his M1911A1 .45 pistol in both hands, its hammer back and

the muzzle aimed at the floor at János’s and Pesvner’s feet.

He didn’t understand a word of the Russian, but he saw the look on my face,

and he’s taking no chances.

Neither is Max. He’s on his feet and inching toward Pevsner and János.

“That’s the pistol, János,” Castillo said, almost conversationally, “that

Bradley used to take down Colonel Komogorov in the hotel garage in Pilar after

Komogorov put a bullet in you.”

“We mean you no harm, friend Charley!” Pevsner said.

For some reason, I don’t think that tone of anguish is phony.

“Put it away, Lester,” Castillo ordered in English. He switched to Hungarian—

“Down, Max!”—and then to Russian. “People who come barging into my room

are likely to get shot. You might want to write that down, Alek.”

“We came to make sure you had a gun in order to do just that,” Pevsner

said. “János, give it him.”

János—very carefully, using his thumb and index finger—took what looked

like a Model 1911 Colt pistol from his jacket’s inside pocket and handed it

to Castillo.

“That’s an Argentine copy of your .45,” Pevsner said. “Almost identical. A

Ballester Molina stolen, I’m told, from the Argentine Army ten years ago.”

In almost a Pavlovian act, Castillo ejected the magazine and worked the pis-

tol’s slide. A cartridge flew through the air and landed on the bed. Castillo

picked it up, put it in the magazine, then put the magazine back in the pistol

and dropped the hammer.

“What the hell is going on there, Charley?” Major Richard Miller’s voice

demanded over the speaker circuit.

“Turn the speaker off, Lester,” Castillo ordered, and picked up the


Pevsner looked as if he was going to leave the room.

Oh, what the hell!

“Stay, Alek,” Castillo said.

He’ll be able to hear only one side of the conversation.

And he already knows I work for the President.

Castillo spoke into the handset: “Excuse the interruption, Richard. The

maid wanted to turn down the bed. You were saying?”

“I was about to read the message the bluesuit didn’t want to give me.”

“Please do.”


3 3 3

“Skipping the address crap at the top . . . ‘(1) Pursuant to verbal order issued

by DepSecNav to undersigned in telecon 1530 6 September 2005, four US Army

HU1D rotary-wing aircraft were permitted to land aboard USS Ronald Reagan

at 1305 10 September 2005.

“ ‘(2) Senior officer among them, who states he is a US Army major but declines

to further identify himself with identity card or similar document, also has refused

to inform the undersigned of the nature of his mission, stating it is classified Top

Secret Presidential, and neither the undersigned nor RADM Jacoby, USN, the Task

Force Commander, is authorized access to such information.’ ”

“Good for him,” Castillo said.

“It gets better,” Miller replied. “ ‘(3) US Army major was denied permission

by undersigned to communicate with US Army LtCol Costello of Dept of Home-

land Security using a non-standard satellite radio he brought aboard. He said LtCol

Costello could quote clarify unquote the situation. He refused use of Reagan ’s com-

munication services, stating he could not be sure of their encryption capabilities.

“ ‘(4) US Army major has also refused inspection of cargo aboard helicopters,

again citing classification of Top Secret Presidential.’ ”

“And, again, good for him,” Castillo said. “Who screwed up and didn’t clue

the Navy in on what’s happening?”

“I’m not finished,” Miller said. “Get this: “ ‘(5) Helicopters and their crews

are presently on flight deck in what amounts to a standoff between members of my

crew and the Army personnel.”

“Oh, shit!” Castillo said.

“Continuing right along,” Miller replied, “ ‘(6) Further action was not taken

because the US Army personnel are obviously American and they pose no threat to

USS Ronald Reagan that cannot be dealt with.

“ ‘(7) Urgently and respectfully request clarification of this situation and exist-

ing orders. It is suggested that contacting LtCol Costello, only, might be useful.’

That’s why the bluesuit didn’t even want to give me this.”

“Jesus Christ!” Castillo said.

“And we conclude with, ‘(8) USS Ronald Reagan proceeding.’ The signature

is ‘Kenton, Captain USN, Captain, USS Ronald Reagan’ and below that it says,

‘Rear Admiral K. G. Jacoby, USN, concurs.’ ”

“What did Montvale have to say?”

“That’s why I called you, Charley. I can’t get through to Montvale.”

“What do you mean you can’t get through to him?”

“Your buddy Truman Ellsworth, who answers his line, says he’s not


“He does?” Castillo said, coldly. “Get me the White House switchboard.”

He saw Pevsner’s eyes light up when he heard “White House.”

3 3 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Miller said, “Before you charge off in righteous indignation, would you be in-

terested in hearing my probably somewhat paranoid assessment of the situation?”

“As long as it doesn’t take longer than sixty seconds.”

“What happened, I submit, is that General McNab went to the secretary of

Defense and told him he had to move the Hueys down there black, under the

authority of the Presidential Finding. So far, so good, as the secretary of Defense

knows about the Finding and that he’s being told, not asked. So the secretary of

Defense got on the horn to the secretary of the Navy and told him to do it.” He

paused. “I don’t know if the secretary of the Navy knows about the Finding.

Do you?”


“Okay,” Miller said. “I don’t think he does, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m

pretty sure that the deputy secretary of the Navy doesn’t. Agree?”

“He probably doesn’t.”

“The Urgent says the bluesuit captain got his orders to land the Hueys on

his ship from the deputy on the phone. I think it’s very reasonable to assume

the bluesuit captain asked the deputy what the hell was going on, and the

deputy couldn’t tell him, because he didn’t know any more than he was told,

which was essentially, just do it, explanation to follow.”

“Okay,” Castillo agreed.

“Which causes the bluesuit captain to shift into cover-my-ass mode. So he

goes and tells the admiral, who is in charge of the whole carrier group. Which

causes the admiral not only to be pissed, because he’s the admiral, and the

deputy should have called him, not the captain, but also causes him to shift into

his cover-my-ass mode.”

“Probably,” Castillo agreed.

“So the admiral says, ‘There’s nothing we can really do except wait for the

Army choppers to land. Whoever’s in charge of them probably will explain

what’s going on, and based on that we can decide how to best protect our

beloved Navy from the fucking Army.

“And then the birds land on the carrier, and good ol’ Major Bob Ward, in

the sacred traditions of the 160th, ain’t gonna tell nobody nothing—or show

anybody anything, not even a bluesuit with stars—without permission from the

guy running the operation, one C. G. Castillo. He is willing to get this per-

mission, providing they let him set up his nonstandard radio which—for rea-

sons I don’t know; they were in their cover-my-ass mode, which may explain

it—they were unwilling to do.

“So there’s the standoff and why they sent the Urgent.”

“Very credible,” Castillo said, “but what’s it got to do with Ellsworth not

letting you talk to Montvale?”


3 3 5

“Let me finish,” Miller said. “Montvale knew you were worried about the

Navy giving us trouble because Jake Torine called him, right?”


“And Montvale is going to get Jake on the carrier to make sure there’s no

trouble caused by the aforementioned impetuous light colonel Castillo, right?”

“So, again?”

“So, if you were Montvale and had NSA at Fort Meade in your pocket, and

wanted to stay on top of the situation, wouldn’t you task NSA to look for—

‘search filter: Army choppers on Navy ships, any reference’—and immediately

give him any and all intercepts? Of course you would. And I’ll bet that sonofa-

bitch had the Urgent before I did.”

“Where are you going with this, Dick?” Castillo asked.

I think I know, he thought, but I’d like confirmation.

“Montvale doesn’t give a damn whether or not you get Timmons back,

Charley. We both heard him say as much. He wants to protect the President,

I’ll give him that much, and he thinks your operation is going to blow up in

everybody’s face, including the President’s. And Truman Ellsworth, for sure, and

probably Montvale, would love to see you fuck up and embarrass the President,

which would happen if you can’t run the snatch-and-grab successfully. Which

you can’t without the choppers. That’s why he was so helpful in arranging to

get Jake onto the Gipper. Montvale, not you, would have sent him. That means

Jake works for Montvale, which cuts you out of the picture.

“Then, and you know the sonofabitch is good at this, he whispers in the

admiral’s ear that no serious harm would be done if something happened to

keep him from launching the choppers, and an embarrassing-to-the-Navy sit-

uation might well be avoided.”


“And he knows you’re out of touch. And he knows, that being the case, when

I got the Urgent, I would try to call him. So he tells Ellsworth that he’s not avail-

able to me. I think he’s betting that I wouldn’t call the President. And if I did,

so what? All that would mean was that the Lunatic’s Chief of Staff is as loony

as he is. And if the President asked him what the hell’s going on, Montvale could

pull the rug out from under you—for this operation and generally.”

“Yeah, except the lunatic found out and is perfectly willing to get on the

horn to the President.”

“Permission to speak, sir?” Miller said.

Castillo sensed that Miller was not being clever. He had used the phrase a

subordinate officer uses when his superior officer is about to do something the

subordinate thinks is wrong.


3 3 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Sir, how often do you think Admiral Jacoby gets phone calls from the

White House switchboard?”

It was a moment before Castillo answered.

“Where’s Torine now?” he asked.

“Forty minutes ago, he was about to land at MacDill.”

“As soon as we get off here, contact him, bring him up to speed on what’s

happened. Tell him Montvale is not to know we’re onto him, and to call me

once he’s on the Gipper.”

“Okay, but what’s happened? I must have missed something.”

“Stay on the line while I brighten Admiral Jacoby’s dull daily routine with

a call from the White House.”

“White House,” the pleasant professional female voice answered. “What can I

do for you, Colonel Castillo?”

“I need Rear Admiral K. G. Jacoby on a secure line. He’s aboard the USS

Ronald Reagan, which is somewhere between Norfolk and Key West.”

There was a moment’s pause, then the operator replied: “The diffi-

cult we do immediately, sir; the impossible takes a little longer. I’ll have

to go through the Navy. That’ll take a little time. Can I call you when it’s

set up?”

“Can I stay on the line?”



“White House. We need a secure encrypted voice connection to the USS

Ronald Reagan. It’s in the Atlantic some—”

“We know where she is, thank you very much, White House.”


“Navy. Establish secure encrypted voice connection.”

“Hold one, Navy.”

“Navy, Reagan. This connection is encrypted Class Two.”

“Reagan. The White House is calling. Request upgraded encryption.”

“Hold one, Navy.”


3 3 7

“Navy, Reagan. This connection is now encrypted Class One.”

“White House, Navy. You read?”

“Reagan, this is the White House. We’re calling Rear Admiral K. G. Jacoby.”

“White House, Reagan. Ma’am, the admiral is in his cabin. He has only

Class Two encryption on that line. It will take a minute to get him to the se-

cure voice communication room.”

“We’ll wait. Thank you.”

“Radio, voice commo room.”


“We have Admiral Jacoby. Encryption status Class One.”

“White House, Navy. You read?”

“Admiral Jacoby?”


“This is the White House. Please hold for Colonel Castillo. Go ahead,


“We have verified Class One encryption?”

“Yes, sir, we do.”

“Good evening, Admiral. My name is Castillo.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Sir, I’m a lowly lieutenant colonel.”

“What’s this all about, Colonel?”

“Sir, I am in receipt of your Urgent referring to the Army helicopters you

now have aboard. Your message referred to me as ‘Costello.’ ”

“Sorry about that.”

“Sir, getting my name wrong apparently is not the only communications

problem we are having.”

“Is that so?”

“Sir, it was intended by the secretary of Defense that you or Captain Ken-

ton receive your orders regarding the helicopters from the secretary of the Navy.

According to your Urgent, Captain Kenton spoke with the deputy secretary.”

“That is correct, Colonel. Frankly, I wondered why the deputy secretary

didn’t call me.”

“Sir, I had nothing to do with that call. But I am calling to do what I can

to straighten out the mess. Let me begin by saying the helicopters are involved

in an operation classified Top Secret Presidential.”

3 3 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“I’ve heard nothing of the kind, Colonel.”

“Yes, sir. I understand. But that being the case, it is the reason the Army of-

ficer in charge was unable to explain what he’s doing or permit inspection of

his helicopters. Unless I’m mistaken, there is no one aboard the Reagan with that

security clearance.”

“Excuse me, Colonel, is there some way I can verify what you’re telling me?

This is highly unusual.”

“Yes, sir, it is. May I suggest, sir, that you contact the secretary of Defense?

Or, alternatively, wait until Colonel Jacob Torine, USAF, arrives on the Reagan.”

“What did you say?”

“The director of National Intelligence, Ambassador Montvale, as we speak, is

arranging for Colonel Torine, who is my deputy, to be put aboard the Reagan—”

“Your deputy? You gave me to believe you are a lieutenant colonel.”

“I am, sir. And Colonel Torine is my deputy. We have both been detached

from our respective services, sir, for this duty, and normal military protocol does

not apply.”

“I will be damned!”

“I admit it often causes some confusion, sir. But as I was saying, sir, Colonel

Torine will arrive on the Reagan probably within a matter of hours, and he’ll

tell you what he can about what is being required of you. In the meantime, sir,

I would be grateful if you could do several things.”

“Such as?”

“Sir, please permit the major to establish communication with us using the

equipment he has with him. That is so much simpler for us than going through

the White House switchboard.”

“Well, I can’t see any reason why that can’t be done.”

“And, Admiral, the sooner you have the helicopters moved to the hangar

deck and the paint stripping started, the better.”

“I don’t know anything about any paint stripping, Colonel. What’s

that all—”

“Colonel Torine will explain what has to be done, sir, when he comes

aboard.” He paused, crossed his fingers, and went on: “Sir, with respect, I sus-

pect you’re having trouble accepting all this. May I ask, sir, that you immedi-

ately communicate with the secretary of Defense to get his assurance?”

There was a moment’s silence, and then Admiral Jacoby said, “I think we

can hold off, Colonel, until your deputy comes aboard. But in the meantime,

I’ll have the aircraft moved to the hangar deck and the paint stripping started.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Break it down, White House.”

Admiral Jacoby just had time to say “shit” before a hissing announced the

connection was gone.





“How’d I do, Dick?”

“I think you ruined the admiral’s day.”

“He was about to ruin mine. You know what to tell Jake, right?”

“He just took off from MacDill. That’s next.”

“Thanks a hell of a lot, Dick,” Castillo said, then signaled to Lester to break

the connection.

Castillo looked at Pevsner.

“Now that that’s done, you want to tell me about the pistol?” Castillo said.

“People are trying to kill you, friend Charley.”

“You mean right here and now? Or can we go finish our dinner?”

“We will talk after dinner,” Pevsner said.

Castillo picked up the Argentine .45, slipped it into the waistband at the

small of his back, and gestured for Pevsner to precede him out of the room.



The Llao Llao Resort Hotel

San Carlos de Bariloche

Río Negro Province, Argentina

2035 10 September 2005

They all crowded into the elevator and rode to the lobby floor. When the door

opened, Pevsner touched Castillo’s arm and motioned everyone else out.

“I need a moment with my friend Charley,” he announced, waving toward

the dining room. “The rest of you go in.”

Everyone obeyed but Max, who simply sat down and looked to Castillo for

instructions. The others made their way around him, and when they all had left

the car, Pevsner pushed one of the upper-floor buttons. The door closed and

the elevator started to rise.

Pevsner somehow managed to stop the elevator as it ascended; Castillo won-

dered if an alarm bell was about to go off.

“I don’t want to scare Anna and the children,” Pevsner said, “so don’t say

anything at the table.”

“What’s going on, Alek?”

3 4 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Pevsner didn’t respond directly.

“I will arrange for your baggage to be taken to the boat,” he said. “You can

spend the night at the house. Among other things, that’ll give us the opportu-

nity to talk.”

“I can’t get far from the communicator,” Castillo said, thinking aloud.

“And the boy who operates it?”

Castillo nodded, then said, “He’s the communicator, and he’s young, Alek,

but don’t think of him as a boy.”

Again, Pevsner didn’t respond directly. After a moment, he said, “All right,

everybody goes. That’ll take a little longer to arrange.” He smiled. “That’s prob-

ably better anyway. A gun battle would disturb the guests.”

“There’s a possibility of that?”

Pevsner nodded.

“What’s going on, Alek?”

“About an hour and a half ago,” Pevsner said, “Gellini called and said you

were back in Argentina—”

“Gellini?” Castillo wondered aloud, then made the connection: “The

SIDE guy?”

Pevsner nodded.

“The man who replaced Alfredo when he was relieved,” he confirmed.

“And who now works for you?” Castillo asked.

Pevsner seemed unable to answer that directly, too.

“He admires you, friend Charley. The way you stood up for Alfredo when

he was relieved.”

Alfredo Munz had been chief of SIDE when J. Winslow Masterson was

murdered. He had been retired—in fact, fired—in order to be the Argentine

government’s scapegoat. Castillo, who had found Munz not only unusually

competent and dedicated, thought that the Argentine government’s action was

inexcusable and had told his replacement, Coronel Alejandro Gellini, so much

in less than tactful terms.

“Alfredo was screwed, Alek, and you know it. I told Gellini what I thought

of it. And him.”

“Gellini could not protect Alfredo from the foreign minister, and neither

could I. But there was a silver lining to that cloud: Alfredo now works for you,

and Gellini admires you.”

“And what did my admirer have to say besides telling you that I was back

down here?”

“That people are trying to kill you.”

“A lot of people have been telling me that lately. He didn’t happen to

say who?”


3 4 1

“This is serious business, friend Charley,” Pevsner said, smiling and shak-

ing his head in exasperation.

“Gellini didn’t happen to say who?” Castillo asked again.

“What is that word you use? ‘Bounty’? Gellini said there is a bounty on you.”

“I think he probably meant ‘contract,’ ” Castillo said. “Meaning: whoever

would whack me would get paid.”

Pevsner nodded. “What is a ‘bounty’?”

“A price the good guys put on the head of a bad guy,” Castillo explained.

“Or on some bad guy who jumps bail. Who put out the contract on me?”

“Gellini knows only that the gangsters know about the contract; he didn’t

know who issued it. It could be something the FSB has done in addition to their

own plans for you, but I don’t know. They usually like to do that sort of

thing themselves.”

“What’re the FSB’s plans for me?”

“What do you think, friend Charley? First you took out the Cuban,


“Major Vincenzo was shooting at me at the time.”

“—and then Komogorov of the FSB.”

“Colonel Komogorov was shooting at you at the time. And I didn’t take him

out, Lester did.”

Pevsner shook his head in exasperation again.

“As you well know, when something like that happens, what the FSB wants

to hear—what Putin himself wants to hear—is not some excuse or explanation.

They want confirmation that whoever has killed one of them has himself

been killed.”

“I know an Argentine cop who has much the same philosophy of life.”

Pevsner looked at him curiously.

“I don’t understand,” he said, finally.

“It’s too long a story to be told in an elevator. It will have to wait until after


This time Pevsner expressed his exasperation by exhaling audibly. He pushed

a button on the control panel and the elevator began to descend.


The dinner was first class, which did not surprise Castillo. But he was sur-

prised at how hungry he was and how much he ate, including all of an enor-

mous slice of cheesecake topped with a strawberry sauce he thought was

probably a hundred calories a spoonful.

3 4 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Afterward, Pevsner led the group back to the elevator bank and they filled

both elevators. This time, the elevators went down and the doors opened on a

corridor in the basement.

At the end of the corridor, a door opened to the outside, where a Peugeot

van and three men—obviously armed—waited for them. They climbed into the

van and were driven maybe a kilometer to a wharf on the lakeshore.

This has to be Lake Moreno, Castillo decided.

Munz said, “Pevsner’s place is on the other side of the lake—Moreno.”

Floodlights came on as they stepped onto the wharf. Castillo saw a cabin

cruiser, what looked like a thirty-five- or forty-foot Bertram sportfisherman

tied to the pier, and had a mental image of the boat being hauled along some

narrow provincial road on a trailer, dazzling the natives.

There were no lights on the boat, but as they approached the vessel he

heard its exhaust burbling. As soon as they were on the boat, in the cockpit aft,

the floodlights on the pier went on and the cabin lights on the boat illuminated.

Pevsner asked with a gesture whether Castillo wanted to go into the

cabin or up to the flying bridge. Castillo opted for the flying bridge, despite

the fact that the air was chilly. These were the Andes Mountains, and

springtime would not come to Argentina for several weeks. But Castillo—

perhaps as a reflex response—wanted to see what could be seen and began

climbing the ladder fashioned of heavy-gauge aluminum tubing toward the

flying bridge.

Max barked his protest at not being able to follow him up the ladder.

Elena appeared at the cabin door and called to him. He looked to Castillo for


“Go with Elena,” Castillo ordered, and after a moment’s thought Max

walked into the cabin.

The man who had been with Pevsner when Castillo had first seen them was

at the helm, his hands on the controls. As soon as Pevsner was on the flying

bridge, the boat began to move.

Set into the panel were radar and GPS screens, and the man used the lat-

ter to navigate.

Meaning, of course, that he’s pretty sure nothing is out there, on the surface

or below.

Wrong. I hear other engines.

A moment later, as Castillo’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw first the

wake of a boat ahead of them and then the boat itself, a twenty-odd-foot in-

board. The three men who had been waiting for them outside the Llao Llao

were in it.


3 4 3

The small inboard boat picked up speed and began to turn, obviously in-

tending to circle the sportfisherman.

“Nice boat, Alek,” Castillo said, raising his voice over the sound of wind and

the rumble of twin diesels. “How did you get it here?”

“By truck,” Pevsner replied. “The first try was a disaster. They went off the

road and turned over.”

“Jesus!” Castillo said, sympathetically.

“Always look for the silver lining, friend Charley. It took another month to

get another boat from Miami—this wouldn’t fit in any of my airplanes—but I

now have spare parts for everything but the hull.”

Twenty minutes later, a light appeared almost dead ahead. The radar screen

showed something that had to be a pier extending into the lake from the shore.

The engines slowed. A minute later, floodlights on a pier came on and the in-

board boat came out of the darkness and tied up. A twin of the Peugeot van at

the Llao Llao was backed up onto the pier.

Three minutes later, they had tied up to the wharf and were in the van,

which started down the pier. As soon as the vehicle reached the foot of the pier,

the floodlights went off.

It was a five-minute drive along a steep, curving, gravel road, and then they

passed through a gate in a ten-foot-tall stone wall and came to a stop before an

imposing house.

Pevsner led them all inside.

Anna and the boys and the girl— Elena, who is almost exactly as old as my

son—said a polite good night.

Castillo looked around. There was an enormous room off the entrance

foyer. A crystal chandelier hung from what was probably a thirty-foot-

high ceiling, illuminating a wall on which hung probably fifty stuffed deer

and stag heads. On either side of a desk, two stuffed, snarling pumas faced

each other.

This is familiar.

Why do I recognize it?

The memory bank produced an image of a large, fat, jowly man standing

at the entrance to the room, dressed in lederhosen and a Bavarian hat with a

pheasant tail feather stuck in it, and holding a bow and arrow.

I’ll be goddamned!

Pevsner said in Russian: “My people will take care of your bags, friend

Charley. Does the boy— your communicator— have to be present while we talk?”

“No, but he has to be close,” Castillo answered in Russian. “And he’ll need

some place to set up his radio.”

3 4 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Will he require help?”

Castillo shook his head.

“Then let’s go in there,” Pevsner said, pointing to the enormous room and

taking Castillo’s arm.

Castillo switched to German and asked, “Are you sure it will be all right with

the Reichsforst und Jägermeister?”

“You are amazing,” Pevsner said in Russian. “How are you familiar with that,

with Carinhall?”

Castillo continued to speak German: “My grandfather had a book—a large,

leather-bound book—that Göring gave him when he was a guest. I used to look

at it when I was a kid.”

“Your grandfather was a Nazi?”

“He was an Army officer who was badly wounded at Stalingrad and evac-

uated just before it fell. With Billy Kocian, incidentally. He told me Göring used

to receive busloads of wounded senior officers at the place, and everyone got a

book. The first picture inside, so help me God, was of Göring in lederhosen

holding a bow and arrow.

“But, no, to answer your question, my grandfather was not a Nazi. My

mother told me—when she knew she was dying; she said she thought I should

know—that he was on the SS’s list of those officers known to be associated with

Claus von Stauffenberg in the bomb plot, and they were looking for him until

the end of the war.”

“What kind of a senior officer, Karl?” Pevsner said, now speaking German.

“Infantry, detailed to Intelligence. He was a lieutenant colonel at Stalingrad;

they promoted him to colonel while he was recuperating.”

“And now the German senior officer’s grandson is an American senior of-

ficer detailed to Intelligence, and the descendants of the SS, now in the employ

of the Russians, are looking for him in order to kill him. Blood really does run

deep, doesn’t it, friend Charley?”

Castillo realized that Pevsner’s observation made him uncomfortable and

wondered why.

“I think you mean, ‘History does repeat itself, doesn’t it?’ ” Castillo said,

then went on quickly before Pevsner could reply: “I had a couple of days off

one time in Berlin and went to see Carinhall. It’s in Brandenburg, in the

Schorfheide Forest— was there; Göring had the place blown up to keep the Rus-

sians from getting it. They did a good job. The gates are still there, but aside

from that not much else is left.”

A maid rolled a cart loaded with spirits and the necessary accoutrements into

the room, cutting off the conversation. After she had positioned the cart, she

looked at Pevsner.


3 4 5

“That will be all, thank you,” Pevsner said, and waited to continue speak-

ing until she had left them alone.

“Would you have me serve you, friend Charley? Or . . . ?”

“Wait on me, please. I find that flattering. Some of that Famous Grouse

single-malt will do nicely, thank you very much.”

Pevsner shook his head and turned to making the drinks.

Pevsner began: “The fellow who built this place—I bought it from his

grandson—was German. Nothing much is known about him before he came

here—and I have inquired and have had friends inquire. There is no record of

a Heinrich Schmidt having ever lived in Dresden, which is where his Argen-

tine Document of National Identity says he was born.

“Of course, the records may have been destroyed when Dresden was fire-

bombed. What’s interesting is that there is no record of his having immigrated

to Argentina, or having been issued a DNI. Or of Herr Schmidt becoming an

Argentine citizen. What I did learn was he bought this place—it was then four

hundred sixteen hectares of forestland—and began construction of the house

two months after it was alleged that a German submarine laden with cash and

jewelry and gold had discharged its cargo near Mar del Plata and then scuttled

itself at sea.”

Pevsner handed Charley a glass, held his own up, and tapped rims.

“To friends you can really trust, friend Charley.”

“Amen, brother. May their tribe increase.”

“Unlikely, but a nice thought,” Pevsner replied, took a sip, then went on:

“Such a submarine was found eighteen months ago off Mar del Plata, inciden-

tally. Probably just a coincidence.”

“I know that story. There were three of them loaded with loot. One was

known to have been sunk in the English Channel. The second is known to have

made it here. I thought the third one just disappeared.”

“It did. But—from what I have learned—only after it unloaded its cargo

here in Argentina. Anyway, Herr Schmidt lived very quietly—one might say

secretly—here with his family—a wife, a daughter, and a son—until his wife

died. Then he passed on. Under Argentine law, property passes equally to chil-

dren. The son—no one seems to know where he got the cash—bought out his

sister’s share, and she went to live in Buenos Aires, where she met and married

an American, and subsequently moved to the United States.

“The son married an Argentine, and aside from shopping trips to Buenos

Aires and Santiago, Chile—never to Europe, which I found interesting—lived

here with his wife and their only son—the fellow from whom I bought the

place—much as his father had done. I understand that the father—and, later,

the son—were silent partners in a number of business enterprises here.

3 4 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“When the son passed on, the widow did not want to live here alone, so

she moved to Buenos Aires. The property sat unused for some years, until at

her death it was finally put on the market and I bought it. Interestingly, they

reduced the asking price considerably on condition I pay cash. More specifi-

cally, in gold. And that payment take place in the United Arab Emirates.”

“What are you suggesting, Alek? That the guy who built this place was

a Nazi?”

“I’m suggesting nothing, friend Charley. But I, too, noticed the architectural

similarity to the reception hall at Carinhall, and went to some lengths to check

that out. Between you and me, friend Charley, if Hermann Göring walked in

the front door, he would think he was in Carinhall. I wouldn’t be surprised if

Herr Schmidt used the same architect. For that matter, the same drawings.

“That led me to look into which business associates of Göring—not party

members or people like that—had gone missing during and after the war. No

luck in making a connection with Herr Schmidt.”

“What you are suggesting is that some Nazi big shot did in fact get away

with running off to here.”

“That has happened, you know. Just a year or so ago, they found that the

owner of a hotel here in Bariloche, a man named Pribke, had been an SS offi-

cer deeply involved in the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome. He

was extradited to Italy. And actually, friend Charley, there is an interesting leg-

end that one of the founders of this area was an American, from Texas, who was

here because the authorities were looking for him at home.”

“Butch Cassidy? The Sundance Kid?” Castillo asked, sarcastically.

Pevsner shook his head. “They were in Bolivia.”

“I didn’t know you were such a history buff, Alek.”

Pevsner looked into Castillo’s eyes for a long moment.

“What I am, friend Charley, is a man who would like to build a future for

his children that would be unconnected with their father’s past. I am more

than a little jealous of Herr Schmidt.”

Castillo looked at him but didn’t reply.

Jesus Christ, he’s serious.

Where’s he going with this?

“You’re a father, you will understand,” Pevsner went on.

Actually, Alek, I’m having a hard time accepting that I am a father.

But, yeah. I understand.

“I think so,” Castillo said.

“I never thought—I am a pragmatist—that I could do what Herr Schmidt

did. These are different times. But I did think that I could perhaps do some-

thing like it. Did you see The Godfather?”


3 4 7

Now what?

Castillo nodded.

“I thought I could do something like young Michael Corleone wanted to

do: Go completely legitimate. You remember that part?”

Castillo nodded again.

“I reasoned that if I gave up the more profitable aspects of my businesses—

really gave them up—and maintained what you would call a low profile here—”

“I get the picture,” Castillo interrupted.

“Not quite, I don’t think, friend Charley. And I think it’s important that

you do.”

“Go ahead.”

“I have been using you since you came into my life, sometimes successfully,

sometimes at a price. You recall how we met, Herr Gossinger?”

“On the Cobenzl in Vienna,” Castillo said. “I thought you had stolen an air-


“You came very close to dying that night, friend Charley. When I heard that

you wanted to interview me, I thought I would send a message to the press that

looking into my affairs was not acceptable and was indeed very dangerous.”

I believe him.

But why is he bringing that up now?

“But then Howard found out that you were really an American intelligence

officer—Kennedy was very good at what he did; it’s sad he turned out to be so

weak and greedy—and you were using the name Karl Gossinger as a cover.

“I found that interesting. So I decided to meet you in person. And when

you suggested that—I love this American phrase—we could scratch each other’s

back, I went along, to see where that would go—”

“Cutting to the chase,” Castillo interrupted, “I would never have found that

727 without you. And I made good on my promise. I got the CIA and the FBI

off your back.”

“So you did, proving yourself intelligent, capable, and a man of your word.”

“I’m going to blush if you keep this up.”

“You’ll remember certainly that the Southern Cone, especially Argentina,

never came up in Vienna. You found the 727 where I told you it would be, in

Central America.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“When that transaction between us was over, I thought it had gone extra-

ordinarily well. You got what you wanted. And I got what I wanted, the CIA

and the FBI to leave me alone. Which was very important to me, as I was al-

ready establishing myself here and—being pragmatic—I knew that if they were

still looking for me, they would have inevitably found me.”

3 4 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“And then I showed up here,” Castillo said.

Pevsner nodded.

“Now that we both know who Howard Kennedy really was,” Pevsner went

on, “I don’t think it is surprising that when you bumped into Howard in the

elevator at the Four Seasons, his first reaction was to suggest to me that we had

made a mistake in Vienna and it was now obviously the time to rectify that


You mean, whack me.

“He suggested we could have our Russian friends do it, so there would be

no connection with me. My initial reaction was to go along—I naturally

thought that you had turned on me, and had come here to demand something

of me.

“But, again, I was curious, and told Howard that that would wait until we

learned what you wanted from me. So I told Howard to put a bag over your

head and bring you out to my house in Buena Vista in Pilar. The bag offended

you. I understood. So I told Howard to bring you anyway. You could be dealt

with at Buena Vista.

“While I was waiting for you, I realized that I was really sorry I had mis-

judged you and regretted that I would have to deal with the problem. The

strange truth seemed to be that I liked you more than I knew I should.”

Giving me an “Indian beauty mark” in the center of my forehead with a

small-caliber, soft-nose pistol bullet . . . that’s how you were going to “deal with

the problem.”

“If you try to kiss me, Alek, I’ll kick your scrotum over the chandelier.”

“You are . . . impossible!” Pevsner said.

“But lovable.”

Pevsner shook his head in disbelief.

“I often function on intuition. I knew when I looked into your eyes that

you were telling me the truth about your reason for being in Argentina, that

not only didn’t you want anything from me but you had no idea I was in Ar-


“Oh, but I did. I wanted to borrow your helicopter.”

“That came later,” Pevsner said, somewhat impatiently. “What happened at

the time was that I decided we were friends. I have very few friends. Howard

was a trusted employee—my mistake—but I never thought of him as my friend.

I trust my friends completely. So I introduced you to my family. Anna liked you

from the moment you met. So I decided to help you find—and possibly assist

in getting back—the kidnapped wife of the American diplomat. Alfredo was

then working for me; it wouldn’t take much effort on my part.


3 4 9

“That night, I asked Anna whether she thought I had made a mistake about

you. She thought not. She said, ‘He’s very much like you.’ ”

“I thought you said she liked me.”

“Why do you always have to mock me?”

“Because it always pisses you off ?”

Pevsner, smiling despite himself, shook his head.

“The next morning, you met Alfredo on your way to where Pavel Pri-

makov’s people had left Masterson’s body.”

“Whose people?”

“Colonel—I’ve heard he’s actually a colonel general—Pavel Primakov is the

FSB’s senior man for South America. You did know they were responsible for

the murder of Masterson, didn’t you?”

“I had no proof and no names. But there was no question in Billy Kocian’s

mind that the FSB was responsible, trying to cover Putin’s involvement in the

Iraqi oil-for-food cesspool.”

“The proof of that would seem to be what they tried to do with Kocian on

the Szabadság híd, wouldn’t you say?”

An attempt to kidnap—or, failing that, murder—Eric Kocian on the Lib-

erty Bridge in Budapest had been thwarted by his bodyguard, Sándor Tor, and

by Max, whose gleaming white teeth had caused severe muscular trauma to one

of the triggermen’s arms.

“Point taken,” Castillo said.

“Where is the old man now?”

“In Washington.”

“The FSB wants him dead—to get ahead of myself—about as much as

they do you.”

“The last time I talked to Billy, he complained that he was being followed

around by deaf men wearing large hearing aids who kept talking into

their lapels.”

It took a moment for Pevsner to form the mental picture. Then he smiled.

“Good men, I hope.”

“The best. Secret Service. Most of them are on, or were on, the President’s

protection detail.”

“Getting back where we were, friend Charley,” Pevsner went on, “I asked

Alfredo what he thought of you and his response was unusual. He said that he

felt you were a lot more competent than your looks—and your behavior—sug-

gested, and that, strangely, he felt you were one of the very few men he

trusted instinctively.

“You proved your competence almost immediately by finding Lorimer on

3 5 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

his estancia, getting there with your men before Major Vincenzo and his men

did—and they had been looking for him for some time—and then, of course,

by effectively dealing with Vincenzo.”

“And losing one of my men in the process. And getting Alfredo wounded.

Let’s not forget that.”

Pevsner ignored the comment.

“And then there are two more things.”

“Keep it up,” Castillo said, raising his glass in a mock toast, then taking a

large sip of the single-malt. “Flattery will get you anywhere.”

“What motivates you to always be a wise guy, friend Charley?” Pevsner

asked, exasperated, but went on before Castillo could reply. “First, when Alfredo

told you he thought I was trying to dispose of him, you took care of him and

his family, knowing that was—if the situation was what you thought it was—

in defiance of me.

“I was annoyed—very disappointed—with you at the time by that, and

worse, by the way you threatened me with turning the CIA loose on me again

unless I loaned you my helicopter for your Uruguayan operation. I don’t like

being threatened.”

“Would you break out in tears if I told you that you have the reputation

for being a ruthless sonofabitch?” Castillo said. “Helping Alfredo was a no-

brainer for me, Alek. I knew that Alfredo hadn’t betrayed you—”

“How did you know that?” Pevsner interrupted.

“We were talking a moment ago about there being men you instinctively

trust. And you do have that ruthless sonofabitch reputation, Alek. Who should

I have trusted? A man like Alfredo, or a man with a reputation like yours?

Who, incidentally, had a known ruthless sonofabitch whispering in his ear?”

“And that brings us to that treasonous scum, doesn’t it?”

“Does it?”

“A traitor who told my good friend Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Komogorov

that I was going to meet with you in the Sheraton in Pilar, knowing full well—”

“Well, that didn’t happen, did it?”

“If it were not for you, János and I would be dead.”


“And I am grateful.”

“Which gratitude you demonstrated by having Howard Kennedy and

Viktor Zhdankov beaten to death—slowly, apparently—in Punta del Este. After

I told you I wanted Kennedy alive so that I could ask him a couple of dozen


“Howard knew too much about me for him to continue to live. And I


3 5 1

could not permit it to get around that anyone who attempted to assassinate me

would live very long.”

After a moment, Castillo asked: “Are we getting near the end of our walk

down memory lane, Alek? I’d really like to know who wants me whacked.”

Pevsner ignored the question. He took a long, thoughtful sip of his drink.

“And now you are here, friend Charley, presumably to ask me something,

or for something. I wanted you to know where you and I stand before you

do that.”

“Okay. Cutting to the chase, a DEA agent by the name of Timmons was

kidnapped in Paraguay. So far as I know, he’s still alive. As quietly as possible,

I want him back. Alive.”

“ ‘A DEA agent’?” Pevsner parroted, incredulously.

“A DEA agent named Timmons,” Castillo repeated.

“How did you get involved in something like that?”

“How would you guess?”

“The President of the United States is involving himself personally in res -

cuing one drug enforcement agent?”

Castillo didn’t answer.

“And how did you think I could help?”

“I thought maybe you could get word through mutual acquaintances to

whoever is holding him that if Agent Timmons were to miraculously reappear

unharmed, either in Asunción or somewhere in Argentina, I would not only

be very happy but would be out of here within twenty-four hours. Otherwise,

I’m going to have to come after him, which would make everybody unhappy,

including me.”

“I think I’m missing something here,” Pevsner said. “You don’t really think

you can load a half-dozen men on my helicopter and just take this man away

from these people?”

“Your helicopter is not in my contingency plans, Alek, but thank you just

the same.”

“Do you even have an idea who has this man? Or where?”

“I’m working on that.”

“Or who they are? I don’t think they’re liable to be Bolivian drug dealers.”

“Why would you say that?”

“My information is that Major Vincenzo—who was in charge of dealing

with the drug people for Colonel Primakov—has already been replaced by an-

other officer from the Cuban Dirección General de Inteligencia, as have the

ex–Stasi people who you also eliminated in Uruguay.”

“I’m not surprised.”

3 5 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“You can’t be seriously considering dealing with people like that with a

handful of men, no more than you can load on my helicopter.”

“Weren’t you listening when I said your helicopter is not in my contin-

gency plans?”

“Then what?”

“Can you keep a secret, friend Alek?”

“You dare ask me that?”

“Yes or no?”

“My God, Charley!”

“If you’ll give me Boy Scout’s Honor”—he demonstrated what that was by

holding up his right hand with the center three fingers extended; Pevsner looked

at him in confusion—“that’s Boy Scout’s Honor, Alek. Very sacred. Meaning

that you really swear what I’m about to tell you will not leave this room.”

Castillo waved his right hand with the fingers extended and gestured with

his left for Pevsner to make the same gesture. Pevsner looked at him in disbe-

lief, then offered a somewhat petulant philosophic observation.

“Maybe you behave in this idiotic and childish manner to confuse people,”

he said, “to appear to be a fool so that no one will believe you’re as competent

as you are.”

“Yes or no, Alek?”

Pevsner raised his right hand, extended three fingers, and waved it angrily

in Castillo’s face.

“Thank you,” Castillo said, solemnly. “Alek, you’re a betting man. Tell me,

who do you think would come out on top between Señor Whateverhisname

is—Vincenzo’s replacement—and his stalwart men and two Delta Force

A-Teams dropping in on them with four helicopters armed with 4,000-round-

per-minute machine guns?”

Pevsner looked at him for a long moment.

“You’re serious,” Pevsner said. It was a statement, not a question.

“And other interesting lethal devices,” Castillo continued. “Said force backed

up by a hundred or so gendarmes argentinos who want not only to get back

two of their number also kidnapped by these people, but also to seek righteous

vengeance for two of their number who were murdered.”

Pevsner looked at him intently.

Castillo nodded knowingly and went on: “And their orders will be—I know,

because their commanding officer told me, and I believe him—to leave as many

bodies scattered over the terrain as possible and then to blow everything up.”

Pevsner looked at him curiously but didn’t say anything.

Castillo answered the unspoken question.


3 5 3

“He wants to send the message that kidnapping or murdering members of

the gendarmería is unacceptable behavior and is punished accordingly.”

“Your president is going to do all this over one drug enforcement agent?”

“A lot of people, Alek, and I unequivocally count myself among them,”

Castillo said evenly, “believe in the work of these drug enforcement agents and

do not consider them expendable.”

“You’re a soldier, friend Charley. You know men die in wars.”

“We don’t shoot our own men in the back. Or write them off when

they’re captured.”

“My God, there’s no way something like this could happen without it get-

ting out.”

“And that is why I was hoping you would pass the message through your

mutual acquaintances to these bastards that I would much prefer that Timmons

miraculously reappear unharmed instead of me having to come after him.”

“That is wishful thinking. I am surprised you even suggested it.”

“All they can say is ‘no.’ Give it a shot, please.”

“I will not be talking to mutual acquaintances about this man,” Pevsner said.

“It would not only be a waste of my breath, but—and I’m surprised you didn’t

think of this, too—it would warn them that action is contemplated.”

Castillo shrugged, hoping it suggested Pevsner’s refusal didn’t matter.

He instead was thinking, Now what the hell do I do?

Pevsner took a moment to drain his glass and think.

“You couldn’t possibly get four helicopters and all the men you say you have

into Argentina without at least the tacit approval of the Argentine govern-

ment,” Pevsner went on.

“The Argentine government knows nothing about this,” Castillo said, “and

if I can work it, never will. And, yes, I can. I already have most of the shooters

in country; the rest will be here in a day or two; and so will the helicopters. I’m

going to get Agent Timmons back. I hope I can do it without the Evil Lep-

rechaun carrying out the bloodbath he wants, but if that happens . . .”

“ ‘The Evil Leprechaun’?”

“Reminding you that you’re still bound by the Boy Scout’s oath of secrecy,

his name is Liam Duffy. He’s a comandante in the Gendarmería Nacional. You

know him?”

Pevsner shook his head.

“I think I’ll have another drink, friend Charley. You?”

Castillo emptied his glass and held it out. “Please.”

As Pevsner made the drinks, Castillo heard him say, as if he was thinking

aloud, “I almost wish I had given you a beauty mark in Vienna.”

3 5 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Oh, Alek, you don’t mean that! You love me!”

A moment later, Pevsner turned and handed Castillo the drink.

“Unfortunately, I do,” he said, sincerely. “But I never dreamed how expen-

sive that would be.”

“There’s no reason you have to be involved in this,” Castillo said, seriously.

Pevsner snorted.

“You had better pray your Evil Leprechaun does what he says he wants to

do,” he said.

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning that’s the only way your noble rescue mission can succeed with-

out bringing yourself down—and me down with you.”

“You’re going to explain that, right?”

Pevsner raised his glass toward Castillo’s and touched rims.

“Oh, God, friend Charley. You do cause me problems.”

“That’s what friends are for, right?”

Pevsner shook his head and exhaled audibly.

“You’re sure that the Argentine government is not involved? Either with you?

Or that they’re not winking at this man Duffy?”

“The Argentine government has no idea what I plan. And I don’t think they

know what Duffy plans,” Castillo said.

“Why do you say that?”

“When I got here, he had men waiting for me. He knew I was coming,

which means he has someone in the U.S. embassy in Asunción.”

“Someone in your embassy knew you were coming?”

“That’s another whole story.”

“I should know it, if I’m to help,” Pevsner said.

That’s really none of his business.

But why not tell him?

Maybe he can fill in the blanks.

“As I understand it, Alek, the drugs are moved to the United States with

fresh meat shipped from Ezeiza by air to Jamaica—maybe on your airplanes,

although I don’t expect you to fess up about that.”

“My airplanes make a number of such flights, sometimes every other day,”

Pevsner said, somewhat indignantly. “But the pilots will not take off until they

have in their hand documents from Argentine customs stating that the sealed

and locked containers they are carrying have passed customs inspection. There

may well be drugs in those containers, but I don’t know about it, and neither

does anyone who works for me. And my people know what happens to people

who do what I have told them not to do.”


3 5 5

“Okay. I believe you”— Strangely enough, I do, especially the part about what

happens to people who do what you’ve told them not to—“but in Jamaica, they are

loaded aboard cruise ships and smuggled into the United States from the cruise

ships. The CIA station chief in the Asunción embassy, and maybe the head man

from the DEA, has been setting up an operation to seize the cruise ships under

international law, which permits the seizure of ships whose owners collude in

the shipment of drugs—”

“You believe this story?” Pevsner interrupted.

“What I know is that a CIA guy heard I was being sent down here to grab

Timmons and looked me up to tell me—Timmons be damned—that he would

be unhappy if my operation interfered with his.”

“And you were sent down here anyway? One drug agent is worth more

than seizing a cruise ship?”

“To answer the second question first, yeah, Alek, in my book one drug

agent is worth more than a cruise ship. And, what’s really interesting here, the

director of the CIA and his deputy don’t know anything about the ship-

seizing operation.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“I believe that. But that operation smells somehow.”

“You don’t have any idea what’s going on?”

“No. But to get back to the Evil Leprechaun: I told you the only way that

he could have known I was coming down here was that he has somebody in

the Asunción embassy close to either the CIA station chief or the head of the

DEA there. There’s no question in my mind that the CIA guy who came to me

in Washington—after I told him I didn’t care about his operation; I was going

to get Timmons back—warned the CIA guy in Asunción that I was coming.”

“With the Delta Force people and the helicopters?”

Castillo shook his head. “He didn’t know that. And I don’t think he’s found

out. But the Evil Leprechaun told me he had word that there were people in-

tent on whacking me and the people with me. I believe him.”

“You don’t mean your own CIA people?”

Castillo shrugged, meaning he didn’t know.

“Duffy tried to bluff me,” Castillo went on, “to get back to your original,

original question. He threatened to have me kicked out of the country within

twenty-four hours unless I put myself and my assets under his command.”

“He knew about the helicopters and—what did you call them?—‘the shoot-


Castillo nodded as he sipped his single-malt.

“He didn’t then,” he explained. “I told him this morning, after I called his

3 5 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

bluff. He backed down. I don’t think he would have backed down from his

threat if the government—hell, even his boss in the gendarmería—knew about

the massacre he’s planning.”

“Why did you tell him anything?”

“Because I need his help in getting the helicopters up there around Asun-

ción where I can stage them, and to find out where these people have


“You trust him?”

“Not very much. But as long as he thinks I’m on board to get his men back

and I’m willing to go along with his plan to shoot everybody in sight and let

the Lord sort them out, I don’t think he’s going to cause me any problems. I

left him with one of the A-Team commanders, who’ll warn me if he’s about to

go out of control.”

“What have you got against letting him do what he wants to do?”

“I’m an Army officer, Alek, for one thing, not the avenging hand of God.

For another, if I let him do that, and this operation blows up in my face, they

call that murder.”

“Letting him do what he wants is the only chance you have to get away with

this, friend Charley.”

“Unless you can get these people to let Timmons go.”

“I’ve told you that that is not going to happen. These people are making a

point. They can kidnap people. They’re not going to turn this fellow loose be-

cause you threaten them. And if you just drop in and get him, leaving their men

alive—and their refining facility and warehouse full of drugs intact—they would

have to send another message. On the other hand, if you—or this fellow

Duffy—leave bodies all over the terrain, to use your phrase, and blow up their

warehouse and refinery, what do you think will happen?”

“I think you’re about to tell me.”

“There’s no way that could be kept a secret. The word will get out—Duffy’s

gendarmes will talk. More important, Duffy will want it to get out, to take

credit; he got the people who killed and kidnapped his gendarmes. And that

will leave the Argentine government with the choice of trying Duffy for mur-

der or saying, ‘Congratulations, Comandante, for dealing so effectively with

these criminals. It is to be regretted, of course, that so many of them died, but

those who live by the sword, etcetera, etcetera. . . .”

“What about my involvement?”

“Who’s going to believe the United States government sent Delta Force

shooters and helicopters to carry them down here to rescue one ordinary drug

agent? I find that hard to believe myself, even coming from you, friend Charley.”

Castillo looked at him with a sinking feeling in his stomach.





“All you have to do is get out of wherever they’re holding your man as soon

as you have him,” Pevsner said, then added, as if he had read Castillo’s mind,

“You know I’m right, friend Charley.”

Castillo still didn’t reply.

“And Colonel Primakov is wise enough to take his losses; he’s too smart to

attempt retribution against what he will believe is the Argentine government.

He’ll lay low for a while, and then start up again. He may even call off the peo-

ple he sent looking for you. After all, you’ll no longer be here, will you?”

“Shit,” Castillo said.

“What’s next for you?” Pevsner asked, the question implying that a discus-

sion had been held and a conclusion drawn.

“I’m going to Asunción in the morning,” Castillo said. “To see what I can

find out about who in the embassy ordered me whacked. And I want to see what

I can find out about this scheme to seize cruise ships. There’s something about

it that smells.”

“Is there an expression in English to the effect that wise men leave sleeping

dogs lie? That’s really none of your business, is it, friend Charley?”

Castillo looked at him and thought, And he’s right about that, too.

“No, it isn’t any of my business. Neither, I suppose, is finding out who in

the embassy wants me whacked. Unless, of course, they succeed before I can

get out of here.”


La Casa el Bosque

San Carlos de Bariloche

Río Negro Province, Argentina

0730 11 September 2005

Castillo, Munz, János, and Pevsner were standing on the steps of the house

smoking cigars and holding mugs of coffee steaming in the morning cold. Max

was gnawing on an enormous bone.

They had begun smoking the cigars at the breakfast table but had been or-

dered out of the house by Anna’s raised eyebrow when Sergei, the youngest boy,

had sneezed.

“He and Aleksandr both have colds, poor things,” she had said, and then

raised her eyebrow directly at her husband.

“Gentlemen, why don’t we have our coffee on the verandah?” Pevsner had


Once there, he had said, not bitterly, “There is a price one must pay for chil-

3 5 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

dren. It generally has to do with giving up something one is fond of. True,

friend Charley?”

“Absolutely,” Castillo agreed.

I think.

I have been a father about a week, and I’m still not familiar with the price . . .

or the rules.

He heard a cry, a strange one, of a bird and looked around to find the bird.

He didn’t see the bird, but as he looked up he saw a legend carved into the mar-

ble above the massive doors.

“I’ll be a sonofabitch,” he said, and read it aloud: “House in the Woods.”

“That’s what Schmidt called it,” Pevsner said.

“It’s what our family calls the house in Germany, Haus im Wald,”

Castillo said.

“Where you grew up?”

Castillo nodded.

“Don’t tell me it looks like Carinhall.”

“No, it looks like a factory,” Castillo said. “Or maybe a funeral home.”

“Bad memories?”

“Quite the contrary. Good memories, except when my grandfather and

uncle killed themselves on the autobahn, and then my mother developed pan-

creatic cancer a couple of months later. Haus im Wald was—is—ugly, but it’s

comfortable. And interesting. From the dining room window, I could look out

and see the Volkspolitzei—and every once in a while, a real Russian soldier—

running up and down the far side of the fence that cut across our property, and

the stalwart troops of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment running up and

down on our side of the fence. I decided right off that I would rather be

an American.”

“You didn’t know you were an American?” Pevsner asked, confused.

“Not until I was twelve. I had a number of surprises in my twelfth year.”

“But your son doesn’t live there? You said something about his living with

his mother.”

“I didn’t know I had a son until last week, Alek.”

Castillo met Munz’s eyes.

There’s more than idle curiosity in those eyes.

Jesus, did he make the connection with the pictures? Does he know?

He can’t know, but he damned sure suspects.

After a perceptible pause, Pevsner said, “And you’d rather not talk about it?”

“I didn’t know I had a son until one of my men gave me the picture I

showed you last night. The boy doesn’t know about me, about our connection.”


3 5 9

“A youthful indiscretion, friend Charley?”

“That’s what they call a massive understatement,” Castillo said. “His

mother—five days before she married a West Point classmate of mine—had so

much to drink that what began as a deep-seated feeling of revulsion toward me

was converted to irresistible lust.”

“But she must know . . .”

“I don’t know if she does or not. I’m sure her husband doesn’t, and I’m cer-

tain Randy, the boy, doesn’t. The problem is her father does, I’m sure. He flew

with my father in the Vietnam War—was flying with my father when he was

killed. Randy looks just like my father.”

“He has your eyes,” Pevsner said. “The photo was clear.”

Castillo nodded. “Worse, I’m sure my grandmother knows. For the same

reason. The eyes. She took one look at my eyes in a picture—and I was then a

twelve-year-old, blue-eyed, blond-headed Aryan—and announced that I was my

father’s son. Subsequently confirmed by science, of course, but she knew when

she saw my eyes.”

“Karl,” Munz said. “This is none of my business . . .”


“There is a picture of the boy at the Double-Bar-C. On a table next to your

grandmother’s chair in the living room. With pictures of your father and your

cousin and you, all as boys. The boy looks like your father as a boy. I asked who

he was, and she said that he was General Wilson’s grandson and told me who

General Wilson was, and then she said, ‘He’s an adorable child. I often wish he

was my grandson.’ And there were tears in her eyes, Karl.” He paused.

“She knows.”

Castillo shook his head.

“How terrible for you!” Pevsner said. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t have a fucking clue, Alek.”

Pevsner gripped Castillo’s shoulder firmly in what Castillo recognized as gen -

uine sympathy.

The left of the double doors to the house opened and Corporal Lester

Bradley came out. He held the radio handset.

“Saved by the Marine Corps once again,” Castillo said.


“What have you got, Lester?”

“Colonel Torine, sir. He’s on the Gipper.”

Castillo gestured for him to give him the handset. The legend on the small


“And how are things on the high seas, Jake?” Castillo said into the handset.

3 6 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“You wouldn’t believe how big this mobile airfield is, Charley.”

“And how are you getting along with the admiral?”

“I’m going to have breakfast with him shortly. He’s a little confused.”

“How’s that?”

“He somehow had the idea that I was bringing a letter to him from Am -

bassador Montvale, for whom I work.”

“And you didn’t have a letter? I guess you talked to Miller?”

“I seem to have misplaced the letter, but I didn’t want to admit that to the

admiral. But I did clear up his misunderstanding about who I work for.”

“How’d you do that?”

“I told him that I worked for you. And who you work for. And under

what authority.”

“That was necessary?”

“I thought so, Charley. Wrong move?”

“I guess it couldn’t be helped. Did he believe you?”

“Not until I suggested he could get that confirmed at the source.”

“You called the President?”

“I got as far as getting the White House switchboard on here. When the ad-

miral heard the White House operator say, ‘Good evening, Colonel Torine,’ the

admiral said he didn’t think it would be necessary to disturb the President.”

“Good move, Jake.”

“I also told the admiral my orders were to keep you advised of our position

every four hours. Aside from coming right out and telling the admiral not to

launch the birds—which I don’t think Montvale would dare do—I think that’s

the end of the Montvale problem.”

“And there goes the star he promised you for changing sides, Jake.”

“Yeah, well, what the hell.”

“Jake, I want you to take a close look at the pilots.”

“What will I be looking for?”

“Any of them who would be uncomfortable with a really dirty operation.”

“Ouch! That’s likely?”

“It looks that way. I don’t want you to explain the operation and then ask

for volunteers. I’ll do that here. But if there’s somebody who strikes you as . . .

being reluctant . . . to do what has to be done, just leave him on the carrier.”

“These are all 160th pilots, Charley. I don’t think I’ll find anybody . . .”

“You never know. I knew a 160th guy who turned in his suit and became

a Catholic priest after Kosovo.”

“Anything else?”

“Don’t put the Argentine insignia on the birds until the last minute; this

operation still may get called off.”


3 6 1


“And keep me posted.”

“Will do.”

“Give the admiral my regards when you have breakfast,” Castillo

said. “Out.”

Castillo held out the handset to Bradley, who didn’t make any effort to

take it.

“Sir,” Corporal Lester Bradley said, “Mr. Darby wants to talk to you.

I’ll have to set that up at the console. Just watch the legend, sir, until you see

his name.”

Castillo nodded, and Lester trotted back into the house.

He held the handset in his palm until the legend read ALEX DARBY ENCRYP-


“What’s up, Alex?”

“D’Elia had an interesting telephone call from some friends vacationing

in Paraguay.”


“They asked him to send them a couple of dozen golf balls.”

“You don’t say?”

“They said they were completely out, and they’d had to spend a lot of time

looking for balls in the rough, and although they’d found a bunch they found

only one really good one. They said they were watching that one very carefully.”


“I don’t see what else they could mean, Charley.”

“Neither do I.”

“You going over there?”

“Just as soon as I can get to the airport.”

“When you find out for sure, do you want me to tell the Irishman?”

“I’ll tell you that when I call from there.”

“Pevsner been any help?”

“In a manner of speaking. I’ll explain that later. Thanks, Alex.”

“Talk to you soon, Charley.”

Bradley came back onto the verandah.

“You want to speak to anyone else, sir?”

“Call Major Miller and see what the schedule for the Lorimers coming

down is. And then break it down, Lester.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Castillo looked at Munz and Pevsner.

“Since you could only hear one side of that conversation, I suspect you’re


3 6 2


. E . B . G R I F F I N

“ ‘Bingo!’?” Munz said.

“The shooters in Paraguay have apparently found where they’ve got Tim-

mons,” Castillo said. “Or that’s what I think a message about golf balls meant.

We’ll know as soon as we get there.”

“ ‘A really dirty operation’?” Munz then asked.

“Alek says he thinks the only way we can get out of here with Timmons

without appearing on the front page of The New York Times and other news-

papers around the world is to let the Evil Leprechaun do what he wants to do.”

Munz considered that.

“I know you don’t like that, Karl, but I’m afraid Alek is right.”

“Why did I think you were going to say that?” Castillo said. “Okay,

thank you for your hospitality, Alek, and will you now arrange for us to get to

the airport?”

“You’re all going to Asunción?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, I’m going to Buenos Aires, and if someone has to go there, I could

take him in the Lear.”

“Why are you going to Buenos Aires?” he asked, greatly concerned.

“To see what I can turn up that might be helpful to you. I’ve got a good

deal at stake here if you can’t do what you want to do.”

“Just don’t do anything to help unless you tell me first. Okay, Alek?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Pevsner said, mockingly.

“I mean that, Alek.”

“I know, friend Charley,” Pevsner said, seriously.



Silvio Pettirossi International Airport

Asunción, Paraguay

1830 11 September 2005

It was winter here, and night came early, making moot Castillo’s worry that

maybe he should have made a low-level reconnaissance anyway, even after learn-

ing the shooters had located where Timmons was being held.


3 6 3

I wouldn’t have been able to see anything, even if I knew what I was looking for.

It had been a long flight; they had been in the air almost eight hours, with

an hour and a half on the ground at the Taravell airport in Córdoba, where

they’d gone through Argentine customs and immigration.

There almost had been a dogfight at Córdoba. Max had taken an instant

dislike to a large black Labrador retriever—a drug sniffer for the Policía Fed-

eral—when the Lab had put his curious nose in the Commander the moment

the door opened—and found himself facing a visibly belligerent Max deter-

mined to protect his airplane.

After considering his situation for perhaps twenty seconds, the Lab con-

cluded that there was only one wise course of action to take when faced with

an apparently infuriated fellow canine twice his size.

The Lab took it . . . and rolled over on his back, putting his paws in the air

in surrender.

Max examined the Lab for a moment, gave him a final growl, then exited

the aircraft and trotted— Somewhat arrogantly, Castillo thought—to the nose

gear of the Commander for what had become his routine postlanding bladder


The Lab’s handler was mortified. Thus Castillo was not surprised when he

and his fellow officers subjected the cabin and the baggage compartment to a

very thorough inspection. As they were doing it, however, Munz softly told him

it was probably routine and they could expect a similar close inspection when

they landed in Asunción.

“A lot of drugs are brought across the border in light aircraft like this one,”

Munz said. “They don’t take off or land at airports with their contraband, of

course, but they sometimes—when empty—put down at airfields like this one

to take on fuel or whatever. Sometimes, the sniffer dogs pick up traces of heroin

or cocaine or marijuana, and that lets the police know that the aircraft is in-

volved in the trade and they thereafter try to keep an eye on it. It’s about as ef-

fective as trying to empty the River Plate with a spoon, but . . .”

He shrugged, and Castillo nodded.

They landed at Pettirossi International immediately after an Aerolíneas Ar-

gentinas 727 set down.

“That’s the last flight today from Buenos Aires,” Munz said. “And it will re-

turn. What that means is we’re going to have to wait until the authorities deal

with both flights before they turn their sniffer dogs loose on this airplane.”

“Wonderful! More delay,” Castillo said, disgustedly.

Standing on the tarmac waiting for the Paraguayan officials, Castillo saw on

3 6 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

the terminal building that it was possible to still make out the lettering of

AEROPORTO PRESIDENTE GEN. STROESSNER under the fresh paint of its new


For some reason, the wait wasn’t as long as they feared. They got lucky.

And when they finally made it through customs and were in the unsecured

area of the terminal, they saw that a van with HOTEL RESORT CASINO YACHT &

GOLF CLUB PARAGUAY painted on its side was waiting for guests.

“Alfredo, why don’t you take Lester out there, get us rooms, and—without

asking—see if you can’t find my shooters? I’m ashamed to admit I don’t have

their names, which they almost certainly aren’t using anyway.”

When Castillo arrived with Lieutenant Lorimer, Sergeant Mullroney, and Max

at the U.S. embassy at almost eight o’clock, an officious Paraguayan security

guard at the well-lit gate informed Castillo and his party that the embassy had

closed for the day.

“Get the Marine guard out here,” Castillo ordered, angrily, in English.

As Castillo listened to the security guard speak into his radio in Spanish, he

pretended not to understand the unkind things the guard said under his breath

about Americans in general and this one in particular.

The Marine guard who came to the guardhouse several minutes later rec-

ognized Lorimer.

“Hello, Lieutenant,” he said.

“We need to get inside.”

“I can let you in, but I can’t let your friends in—”

“We’re American,” Castillo offered.

“—without getting one of the officers to pass them in.”

“Well, then, Sergeant,” Castillo said. “Get an officer. Preferably Mr.


The Marine guard now examined him more closely.

“Mr. Crawford, sir? Our commercial attaché?”

“Mr. Jonathon Crawford, whatever his title,” Castillo said.

“May I ask who you are and the nature of your business with Mr. Craw-

ford, sir?”

Castillo handed him the credentials identifying him as a supervisory agent

of the United States Secret Service.

The sergeant examined the credentials very carefully.

“And this gentleman, sir?”

“He is Detective Sergeant Mullroney of the Chicago Police Department.

Show the sergeant your tin, Sergeant.”


3 6 5

Mullroney did so. The sergeant examined the leather folder carefully and

then handed it back.

“I guess I can let you gentlemen in as far as Station One, sir,” the sergeant

said. “I mean to the building, but not inside. I’ll call Mr. Crawford from

there, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“But you can’t bring that dog into the building, sir.”

“Why don’t we take Max as far as Station One and then see what Mr. Craw-

ford has to say about that?”

“I don’t know, sir . . .”

“That was more in the nature of an order, Sergeant,” Lorimer said, “than

a question.”

“Yes, sir,” the Marine sergeant said.

There was a row of chrome-frame plastic seats in the lobby of the building, and

two sand-topped, chrome-can ashtrays despite the ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING!

signs on two walls.

Mr. Jonathon Crawford, “commercial attaché” of the embassy, appeared

thirty minutes later. He was a nondescript man in his fifties whose only dis-

tinguishing characteristic was his eyes. They were deep and intelligent.

“You wanted to see me?” he asked, without any preliminaries.

“If you’re Crawford, I do,” Castillo said, and handed him the Secret Service


Crawford examined them and looked at Mullroney.

“Show Mr. Crawford your badge, Charley,” Castillo said, then turned back

to Crawford. “I think you know Lieutenant Lorimer?”

Crawford examined the credentials and handed them back, but said noth-

ing to—or about—Lorimer.

“This wouldn’t have kept until morning? I have guests at my house.”

“If it would have kept till morning, I would have come in the morning,”

Castillo said.

“That your dog?”

Castillo nodded.

“No dogs in the embassy, sorry.”

“What do you want me to do, Crawford, call Frank Lammelle—or, for

that matter, John Powell—and tell him that you find it impossible to talk to

me right now because you have guests and don’t like dogs?”

“I don’t think I like your attitude, Castillo.”

“Well, then we’re even, aren’t we? I don’t like being kept waiting for half an

3 6 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

hour while you schmooze your guests and finish your drink. Frank sent you a

heads-up that I was coming. You should have been expecting me.”

Crawford looked at him a long moment with tight lips.

“Make a note in your log, Sergeant,” Crawford ordered, “that—over my

objections—Mr. Castillo insisted on bringing his dog into the embassy.”

Then he gestured for the sergeant to open the door. There came the sound

of a solenoid buzzing, and then Crawford pushed the door open.

He led them to an elevator, waved them onto it, then punched in a code

on a control panel to make the elevator operable. It rose two floors. He led them

down a corridor to an unmarked door—also equipped with a keypad—punched

in the code, and then pushed open that door.

They entered an outer office, and he led them through that to a larger of-

fice and then gestured for them to sit in the leather-upholstered chairs.

“I’m sorry I kept you waiting,” he said. “The cold truth of the matter is my

wife flipped when I told her I had to come down here. I was not in a very good

mood. Can we start all over?”

“My name is Castillo, Mr. Crawford. How are you tonight?”

“Thanks. I think I just told you how I am. How are you, Lorimer?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“You’re now working for the Office of Organizational Analysis, I under -

stand. What’s that all about? What is the Office of Organizational Analysis?”

Castillo answered for him.

“And that transfer, Mr. Crawford,” he concluded, “was already in the

works when Special Agent Timmons went missing,” he said. “I brought

Lorimer with me because he had been stationed here. I’ve never been in


“Do you speak Spanish?”

Castillo nodded. “I’m a Texican.”

“A what?”

“A Texan with Mexican roots. I speak Mexican Spanish.”

I also can pass myself off as a Porteño, and after I’m here three days, people will

swear that I sound just like whatever they call the natives here. Asunciónites?

But the less qualified you think I am, the better.

“I heard you were coming here, Mr. Costello . . .”

“Castillo,” Castillo corrected him.

Castillo. Sorry. But not from Deputy Director Lammelle. Actually, it was


“You want to call Lammelle and check my bona fides before this goes

any further?”


3 6 7

“No. I understand you’re here officially; there’s no need to bother Deputy

Director Lammelle. But I don’t know exactly why you’re here.”

“There’s unusual interest in Special Agent Timmons. My boss sent me down

to find out what I can.”

“And your boss is?” Crawford asked, casually.

“And to report to him what I find out,” Castillo went on.

“You didn’t say who your boss is.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Are those Secret Service credentials the real thing?”

“About as real as your ‘commercial attaché’ diplomatic carnet. If somebody

were to call the Secret Service, they would be told there is indeed a Supervisory

Special Agent by the came of Castillo.”

“Exactly what is it that you want from me, Mr. Castillo?”

“I want you to give Lieutenant Lorimer and Sergeant Mullroney access to

all information regarding this incident, and that means I want them to have ac-

cess to your people. Alone.”

“What exactly is Sergeant Mullroney’s role in this?”

“Personal and professional. Professionally, he works drugs in Chicago. Per-

sonally, he’s Special Agent Timmons’s brother-in-law.”

“That’s not a problem. But is that all?”

“That’s all I’m going to do for now,” Castillo said. “I’ll write my report, then

see if these people turn him loose or not. Or if he dies of an overdose.”

“Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Timmons will more than likely

be turned loose. Maybe tonight. Maybe two weeks from now. But, for the sake

of knowing . . . what do you plan to do if he isn’t released?”

“Bring some people and other things down here to help you get him back.”

“Other things? For example?”

“For example, a couple of helicopters. Ambassador Montvale is working on

that now.”

Crawford’s eyebrows went up. “The Paraguayan government is not going

to let you try to get Timmons back,” he said, “much less bring people and he-

licopters into the country to do it.”

“Ambassador Montvale is a very persuasive man,” Castillo said. “And, be-

sides, that wasn’t my decision. I will just implement it.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“I’m sure I will be told what to do, and how, and when.”

“I understand you met Milton Weiss,” Crawford said.

Castillo nodded, then said, “Is that who gave you the back-channel heads-

up about us coming down here?”

3 6 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

Crawford nodded.

“Milton,” he said, “led me to believe he let you know a little about an in-

teresting operation we’re planning here.”

“Grabbing the cruise ships?” Castillo said.

Crawford didn’t reply.

“Well,” Castillo went on, “I told Weiss I was not a DEA agent and my

paycheck doesn’t come from Langley, so that was none of my business, and

I would—if possible—stay out of your way so I won’t compromise your


“ ‘If possible’?”

“I’m not prescient, Crawford. I don’t know what my orders will be if Tim-

mons isn’t turned loose and turns up dead. At that point, someone will decide

what’s important and I’ll be told what to do. If this cruise-ship-grabbing oper-

ation of yours is so important, maybe you should start doing more than you

have so far to get Special Agent Timmons back.”

Crawford sat up in his chair.

“Just who the hell do you think you are, Castillo, to waltz in here and ques-

tion what I’ve done or not done?”

Castillo did not immediately reply. He thought, That took me a little longer

than I thought it would to make him lose his temper.

“Like you,” Castillo then said, “I’m just a simple servant of the public, hop-

ing I can make it to retirement. So tell me, what have you done, Crawford, to

get Timmons back? Anything at all? Or have you placed your faith in the hon-

esty and competence of the Paraguayan law enforcement community?”

With a little luck, he will now say, “Fuck you, Castillo.”

Crawford glowered at him for a long moment, then said, “Is there anything

else I can do for you tonight, Mr. Castillo? I really have to get back to

my guests.”

“By ten o’clock tomorrow morning, Crawford, I need a list of the things

you’ve done to get Special Agent Timmons back. My boss said I was to get that

to him as soon as possible. Give it to Lorimer.”

Maybe now a “Fuck you!” or a “Kiss my ass!”?

“Very well, Mr. Castillo,” Crawford said. “But you’ll really have to excuse

me now.”

He stood up and smiled, then gestured toward the door.

“I’ll have to check you out with the Marine guard,” he said.






Hotel Resort Casino Yacht & Golf Club Paraguay

Avenida del Yacht 11

Asunción, Paraguay

2120 11 September 2005

Just as the elevator door was closing, a tall, good-looking, olive-skinned young

man stopped the door and got on. He wore his shiny black hair long, so that

it covered his shirt collar. And on his hairy chest—his yellow shirt was unbut-

toned almost to the navel—there gleamed a gold medallion the size of a saucer.

“Thank you ever so much,” he said, smiling broadly. “Muy amable.”

Castillo, who had automatically classified the Spanish as Mexican, managed

a smile, but not without effort.

I don’t feel very amiable, asshole.

The last thing I need right now is a Mexican drunk breathing charm and

booze fumes all over me.

The door closed and the elevator started to rise.

As Pevsner had done in Llao Llao, the Mexican manipulated the control

panel and stopped the elevator.

Castillo felt a rush of adrenaline, and then the Mexican drunk said in Eng-

lish, “Welcome to the Hotel Resort Casino Yacht and Golf Club Paraguay,

Colonel. Master Sergeant Gilmore, sir.”

Gilmore ?” Castillo asked, incredulously.

“Yes, sir. My mother’s the Texican. She married a gringo. If the colonel will

give me a look at his room key?”

Castillo held it up.

“Sir, if the colonel will wait until they deliver his luggage, and then flick his

lights three times, and then leave the lights off, repeat off, and unlock the bal-

cony sliding door, Technical Sergeant Bustamante and I will be able to report

properly without attracting attention.”

“You don’t just want to walk down the corridor and knock on the door?

Who are we hiding from?”

“There have been some unsavory characters, Colonel, who seem fascinated

with Bustamante and myself. Bolivians, maybe. Maybe Cubans. But what

would Cubans be doing here?”

“I’ll explain that when you surreptitiously appear in my room. But give me

a couple of minutes. I’ve got some people with me. I want them to be there.”

“Yes, sir. Corporal Bradley told me.”

3 7 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“He did?”

“Mean little sonofabitch, isn’t he?” Master Sergeant Gilmore said, admir-

ingly. “I was having a surreptitious look at what looked like an AFC case in his

room, when all of a sudden there he was, with his .45 aimed at my crotch. He

got me hands down, Colonel. It was five minutes before he’d let me get off the

floor. If I hadn’t been able to tell him who Sergeant Major Jack Davidson was,

I’d probably still be there.”

“Never judge a book by its cover, Sergeant. You might want to write that


“Should I call him and the German guy and tell them you want to see

them right now?”

Castillo nodded.

“And I’ll call Lorimer and Mullroney,” Castillo said.

“Okay,” Castillo ordered when everyone was in the room, “unlock the sliding

door, then flick the lights three times and leave them off.”

Then he firmly grasped Max’s collar. He didn’t want to surprise the shoot-

ers when they came into the darkened suite.

“I’ll be curious to see how they do this, Charley,” Munz said as the lights

blinked. “These places are supposed to be burglar-proof. And we’re on the

third floor.”

“I have no idea,” Castillo confessed.

Corporal Bradley’s voice in the darkness explained, “They’re using a rubber-

covered chain with loops every foot or so for handholds. And it has a collapsi-

ble grappling hook at the end, sir. Sergeant Gilmore showed me when he came

to my room. I’d never seen a system like that before.”

Ninety seconds later, there was the sound of the sliding door opening and

then closing.

“The drapes are in place,” Master Sergeant Gilmore said. “Somebody can

hit the lights.”

When the lights came on, Castillo didn’t see any kind of a chain on either

Gilmore or Technical Sergeant Bustamante, who looked like Captain D’Elia’s

younger brother.

“You used a chain, Sergeant Gilmore?”

Gilmore pulled a thin chain from a deep pocket on the hip of his trousers.

“Clever,” Castillo said.

“Well, you know how it is when you’re in the stockade, Colonel. You’ve got

nothing to do but think up things like this.”

Castillo laughed.


3 7 1

The Army’s elite Delta Force—and some other, even more secret units—

were housed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in what at one time had been the

post stockade.

“Isn’t a stockade a military prison?” Sergeant Mullroney asked.

“Yes, it is, Mullroney,” Castillo said, mock seriously. “It’s where we keep peo -

ple like these two chained up when they’re not working.”

He went to Bustamante and offered his hand.

“My name is Castillo, Sergeant. We’re glad to have you.”

“I’m glad to be here, sir.”

“That’s because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Castillo said.

“Can I ask another dumb question?” Mullroney asked.

Castillo thought, Not “no” but “hell no,” and was about to say exactly that

when Mullroney asked anyway.

“Maybe I’m out of line, Colonel, but was pissing off that CIA guy the way

you did smart?”

You bet your ass you’re out of line.

Who the hell do you think you are, calling me on that?

But, actually . . .

“Actually, I’m glad you brought that up. What I was trying to do with

Crawford was make him think I’m a wiseass out of my league.” Much like you,

Mullroney. “I think I managed to do that, but I couldn’t make him lose his tem-

per, and I tried. Okay?”

Mullroney nodded.

Castillo looked at the others and went on: “Crawford is dangerous. I still

don’t know what he’s up to, but he’s not on our side. Everybody got that?”

There were nods.

“Okay, the burglars are Sergeants Bustamante and Gilmore, from Captain

D’Elia’s team. This is Colonel Munz, who works for me; Lieutenant Lorimer,

who also works for me; and Sergeant Mullroney, who is a Chicago cop and Tim-

mons’s brother-in-law. And Corporal Bradley, our designated marksman.”

Castillo looked at Gilmore.

“So what have you got?”

“I don’t know if it’s what you’re looking for, Colonel,” Gilmore said. “But

there is a very strange setup on the river a couple of miles downstream from the

hotel. You have a laptop, sir?”

“What are you going to do, Google Earth it?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve got the coordinates on this, sir.” He held up a USB flash mem-

ory device that recorded data. It was the size of a small disposable butane lighter.

“I thought I’d start with the big picture.”

Within a minute, everyone was looking at the laptop computer screen,

3 7 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

which now showed a composite aerial photograph of the river south of Asun-

ción as it would appear from an airplane at five thousand feet.

“What exactly are we looking at?” Castillo asked.

“I finally learned how to add my own data to the imagery, Colonel. Hold

one, sir.”

He plugged the flash memory device into one of the USB ports on the side

of the laptop. An icon of it immediately popped up on the screen. Thirty sec-

onds later, after he touched several keys, a more or less circular ring of tiny flash-

ing spots appeared on the map on the Paraguayan side of the river.

“I still don’t know what I’m looking at,” Castillo said.

“Bustamante found it, sir. We were fishing.”


“Yes, sir, I even caught a couple,” Gilmore said with a grin, then sighed. “We

had covered a lot of water before we came across it. We noticed something

wasn’t right.”

“How’s that?” Castillo said.

“There was something about the riverbank, sir,” Bustamante offered.

“What?” Castillo said, gesturing Give it to me with the fingers of his

right hand.

Bustamante, anticipating the reaction his answer was going to cause,

shrugged. “The grass was too green, Colonel. Twelve feet or so of green grass.

The rest was all brown.”

“Suggesting?” Castillo asked.

“I didn’t know, sir. Maybe it was near a stream. Maybe somebody was wa-

tering it. But I figured it was worth a look, so we took one as soon as it

was dark.”


He swam, sir,” Gilmore said.

“You brought wet suits with you?”

“No, sir. We have night goggles.”

“It was a little chilly,” Bustamante admitted.

“Why Bustamante?”

“He found the green fucking grass, Colonel,” Gilmore said, reasonably.

“And what did you find?”

“It was planted,” Bustamante said. “Plastic boxes, maybe three feet by a foot,

four of them, and all mounted on a heavy timber, so they could be moved out

of the way and put back easy. I figured somebody wanted access to the river and

didn’t want anybody to see it.”

“And farther inland?”

“Well, there was also a motion sensor on the boxes of grass—I almost set it


3 7 3

off—so I went kind of slow. I called Gilmore and told him he ought to have a

look, so he came in with the boat.”

“You have radios?”

“We bought throwaway cell phones in the airport,” Gilmore said. “They

work fine.”


“Well, we reconnoitered, Colonel,” Bustamante said. “The place is crawl-

ing with detection devices, and put in by somebody who knows what he’s

doing.” After a moment, he added: “Damned near got caught.”

Castillo turned quickly and looked at him.

“ ‘Caught’ ?” Castillo parroted. “By who?”

Bustamante shrugged. “I don’t know, sir.”

“Some big sonofabitch moving like a cat,” Gilmore offered. “At least one

guy, maybe more.” He shrugged. “If he was a perimeter guard, he sure as hell

didn’t act like one.”

Oh, shit! Castillo thought. Is this a repeat of our run-in at Estancia


Who the fuck can this guy be—another ex-Stasi?

Or . . . maybe one of Duffy’s goons going in ahead of us?

Who the hell knows?

With drugs and money, anything is fucking possible.

“I swam the hell out of there just the same,” Bustamante said. “I was more

afraid this guy was going to trigger one of the sensors.”

Gilmore moved the cursor on the screen to one of the blinking dots, the

one closest to the river. An inset appeared, a photo.

“You can barely see the device,” Bustamante said, “but if I had stepped over

the grass boxes—or even touched them—it would have gone off.”

Gilmore moved the cursor to another of the flashing dots and another inset

photo appeared, this one of a trip wire.

“I couldn’t tell if it would do anything but set off a Claymore,” Bustamante

said. An inset of a concealed, barely visible Claymore mine appeared. “But I

guess that would be like an alarm bell, right, a Claymore going off?”

“That’s about all we were able to do, Colonel,” Gilmore said. “We worked

our way around their perimeter. I figure there’s probably five, six acres of pro-

tected terrain. We just didn’t have the stuff to try to penetrate it. Sorry.”

“You couldn’t penetrate it?” Castillo asked, in mock shock. “A couple of trip

wires and some Claymores and you just quit? Turn in your Ranger tabs. You’re

a disgrace to the Hurlburt School for Boys.” Then he smiled and finished:

“Great job, guys. I never expected anything like this.”

“You think that’s the place you’re looking for, sir?”

3 7 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Unless it’s some pig farmer worried about piglet rustlers,” Castillo said.

“What else could it be?”

“The Claymore was made in East Germany,” Bustamante said. “I thought

that was sort of interesting.”


“One. A couple of clicks from this highway,” Gilmore said, pointing. “You

want us to have another shot at penetration, Colonel?”

“Absolutely not,” Castillo said. “As clumsy as you two are, that would let

them know we plan to do terrible things to them.”

Both smiled. Neither spoke, but there was a question in their eyes.

“Are we up, Lester?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get me Major Miller.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Put the GPS coordinates on the screen so I can read them,” Castillo


The legend on the handset read: AGNES FORBISON.

“I was beginning to worry that you’d been stolen by gypsies,” she said as she

opened the conversation. “Where are you, Charley?”

“In Paraguay. Where’s Dick?”

“He’s arranging Ambassador Lorimer’s trip down to the estancia. Oh, hell,

I cannot tell a lie, Charley. He decided he’s up to flying the Gulfstream as co-

pilot, and in the absence of the only one who could have told him no, that’s

what he authorized himself to do. Shall I call him and tell him you said no? They

probably are still in the country.”

Castillo considered that for a moment.

“No. He would know you ratted on him. It’ll be all right; all he’ll have to

do is work the radios. But it poses a problem right now.”

“What do you need?”

“Continuous satellite surveillance starting yesterday—using every sensing

technique they have—of a small piece of Paraguayan real estate.”

“You found where they have this guy? God, that was quick.”

“Where we strongly believe he is,” Castillo said. “Two very good shooters

from the stockade did it. I was going to have Dick set up the surveillance—”

“You don’t think I can?”

“I think we have to go through Montvale, and I’m not at all sure that Mont-

vale will produce what he promises to produce. I was going to send Dick to Fort

Meade or Langley—wherever this stuff will come in—to watch what he does


3 7 5

and make sure that it doesn’t slip through the cracks and that no copies are

passed around the intelligence community. I can’t afford any tracks, either.”

“I can go to Meade or Langley and do that as well as Dick could. And he’s

not here. Unless you don’t want me to . . .”

“With profound apologies for not remembering that you are, of all of the

merry band, the best one to deal with the ambassador, Agnes, get the SOB on

the line. And listen in, of course.”

“You’re forgiven,” Agnes said.

“White House.”

“Colonel Castillo needs Ambassador Montvale on a secure line, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ambassador Montvale’s line, Truman Ellsworth.”

“This line is secure. Colonel Castillo calling the ambassador.”

“The ambassador’s not immediately available. Will the colonel talk to me?”

“Ellsworth,” Castillo jumped in, “when the ambassador becomes available,

tell him that when I couldn’t get him, I called the President and that he’ll prob-

ably be hearing from him.”

“Hold one, Castillo.”

“And how are things in the Southern Cone, Charley?”

“Looking up, Mr. Ambassador.”

“What can I do for you?”

“Got a pencil? I want to give you some coordinates.”

“Coordinates of what?”

Castillo began to read the coordinates from the laptop screen.

“Wait, wait a moment, Castillo . . . okay, I’m ready. Start again.”

Castillo did, then said, “Would you read those back to me, please, so we

know we have them right?”

Montvale’s exasperation was evident in his voice as he read back the coor-


“Okay?” Montvale asked, finally.

“Okay. Now what I need, starting immediately, is satellite surveillance of

that area. I want everything: photographs, infrared, electronic emissions of all

kinds, everything those clever people have and I probably don’t know about.”

“What are they looking for?”

3 7 6

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Whatever they can find.”

“What’s there, Colonel?”

“I think Special Agent Timmons is there, but before I go after him, I want

to make sure.”

“Go after him?”

“That’s what I’ve been ordered to do, you’ll remember. But I’ve been think-

ing about the sensitivity of the operation.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“So what I want you to do, please . . .” His voice trailed off in thought, then

he said, “Where is the first place the imagery will go? Langley or Fort Meade?”

“I’m surprised you don’t know. It goes to Meade, then is linked to


“Okay . . .”

“Do you have any idea what you’re asking? How difficult it will be to shift

satellites? How much it will cost?”

“I didn’t think it would be easy, Mr. Ambassador. And I’m sure it will be

expensive. Would you rather I ask the President to authorize it?”

“What’s in the back of my mind . . . are you interested? And can I say what

I have to say without you taking offense?”

“Of course.”

If you have found Timmons and if those helicopters you’re trying to send

down actually get there and you can stage a successful operation, fine. But

you’re not sure you’ve found Timmons. And something—God knows, any-

thing—can interfere with those helicopters getting down there—”

“I’d love to have them, the helicopters, of course, but I have a Plan B in case

something goes wrong. And didn’t you get Colonel Torine onto the Ronald Rea-

gan to ensure that everything possible is being done, will be done, to get them

to me?”

“Yes, I did. But to continue, if something goes awry, questions will be

asked, especially about the satellite surveillance. People are going to know that


“I have a Plan B for that, too, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Do you really?”

“When you order the surveillance, I want you to have the analysts at Meade

taken off all other duties until this is over. I want them told this is classified Top

Secret Presidential. And I want the automatic link to Langley cut off.”

“What are you going to do with the data at Meade?”

“Mrs. Forbison will be there. She will forward to me what the analysts

tell her.”


3 7 7

“Your office manager?”

“Actually, she’s the deputy chief of OOA for administration,” Castillo said.

“And she’s been cleared for the Finding.”

“You’re going to send her to Meade?” Montvale asked, incredulously.

“And by the time she gets there, I hope you’ll have ordered that no one but

she—or whichever of my men with a Finding clearance she designates—is to

get any of the material generated by the surveillance.”

“When is she going to Meade?”

“Just as soon as we get off the phone. Right, Agnes?”

“Yes, sir,” Mrs. Forbison said.

“Good evening, Mrs. Forbison,” Montvale said, icily. “I wasn’t aware you

were on the line.”

“Standard office procedure, Mr. Ambassador,” Agnes said, sweetly. “When-

ever the chief is speaking with you or the President. You didn’t know?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Unless you’ve got something for me, Mr. Ambassador, that’s all I have,”

Castillo said.

“I’ll get right on this, of course,” Montvale said. “And you will keep me up

to speed, right, Colonel?”

“Absolutely,” Castillo said. “Break it down, Lester.”

“It’s broken down, Lester?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Get Agnes back for me, please.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Yes, Chief?”

“Who won that one, Agnes?”

“You did. Hands down. You couldn’t tell?”

“I thought I did. So why am I worried?”

“What happens now?” she asked.

“I’m going to Buenos Aires first thing in the morning. There’s a lot to be

done. I’m going to leave Lester’s radio here, so you’ll be able to send the data

to the shooters here. How do I get them into the voice-recognition circuit?”

“You identify yourself—it has to be you, me, or Miller—and say, ‘Adding

voice-recognition personnel.’ Then you have them give their names and say a

few words.”

3 7 8

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Stand by,” Castillo said, and motioned for Sergeants Bustamante and

Gilmore to join him.

“You heard that?” he asked, and they nodded.

“Colonel Castillo. Adding voice recognition personnel. Master

Sergeant Gilmore.”

He looked at Gilmore and said, “Repeat after me: ‘Master Sergeant

Gilmore.’ ”

“Master Sergeant Gilmore,” Gilmore said.

Castillo nodded and went on: “ ‘When I failed reconnoitering as a Ranger,

I had to become a Green Beanie.”

Gilmore automatically began, “ ‘When I failed’ . . .” Then he paused. “With

all possible respect, Colonel, sir, screw you.”

An artificial voice joined the conversation: “Sufficient data. System

recognizes”—the voice now changed to Gilmore’s—“Master Sergeant Gilmore.”

Castillo nodded appreciatively.

“Colonel Castillo,” he went on. “Adding voice-recognition personnel. Tech-

nical Sergeant Bustamante.”

He looked at Bustamante, and said, “Repeat after me, ‘Technical Sergeant

Bustamante.’ ”

“Technical Sergeant Bustamante,” Bustamante began, then quickly added,

“Thank you, Colonel, for all those very kind things you have said about me.

While I’m normally a modest—”

“Sufficient data,” the artificial voice broke in. “System recognizes”—and

Bustamante’s voice added—“Technical Sergeant Bustamante.”

“Wiseass,” Castillo said.

“Okay, Agnes, they’re on. The communicator will be able to help you pick

what data to send down.”

“I wasn’t going over there by myself.”

“If they say something about the radio, tell them to check with Montvale.

But don’t let it out of your hands. Entirely separate from this, those NSA guys

would really like a look at the encryption circuits.”

“I will guard it as I would my virtue.”

“That’s the best you can do?” Castillo said with mock shock.

There was a moment’s silence, then Agnes said, with laughter in her voice,

“Screw you, Charley!”

“Break it down, Lester.”

“Okay,” Castillo said. “In the morning, Lester, Max, and I are going to go

to Buenos Aires. Lorimer and Mullroney are going to go to the embassy





and nose around, half for show, half to see if they can come up with some-


Lorimer and Mullroney nodded.

Castillo went on: “Colonel Munz will do whatever he thinks makes the most

sense. You two will start writing the ops order, based on what you know and

what intel we get from the satellite or anybody else. Number them. Whenever

one is complete, based on what you have, send it to me. To the safe house.

There’s a radio there, and probably some others have caught up with us by now.

Between now and oh dark hundred—I want to leave as early as possible; it’s a

long way to Buenos Aires—Lester will check you out on the radio and proce-

dures. Any questions?”

Heads shook.

“Good. Let’s go.”


Nuestra Pequeña Casa

Mayerling Country Club

Pilar, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina

1345 12 September 2005

“Duffy and D’Elia just came in the gate,” Susanna Sieno announced as she hung

up a telephone in the quincho.

“If I were not a modest man, I would say we are about to blow the co-

mandante’s mind,” Castillo said.

“This is pretty impressive stuff, Charley,” Susanna said.

“I meant with our drapes,” he said, gesturing toward drapes now closed

over the plateglass windows. “Lavender and pink stripes, with gold highlights.

Really chic!”

She gave him the finger.

“Next time, you buy them,” she said. “More important, you look soulfully

into the eyes of the drapes-hanger, or whatever the hell he’s called, to get him

to hang them right now, not mañana sometime.”

The lavender-and-pink-striped drapes—with gold highlights—were thick

enough to shut out all light from the outside and, of course, ensured that no

one could see into the quincho.

The quincho was now the command post, at least for the time being, for

what had been jokingly dubbed Operation GGT—Go Get Timmons.

Four sixty-four-inch flat-screen LCD television monitors sat on a low table

against the new drapes.

3 8 0

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

One was tuned to the Fox News Channel, with the sound barely audible.

Another monitor was connected to the AFC console and showed the data

coming in from Fort Meade as it arrived. The encryption system was fast, but

there was an enormous amount of data being sent. The result of this was that

the screen first filled with what looked like snowlike static, which then began

to take form, until the entire image was clear.

The third monitor was connected both to a large computer server and to

Castillo’s laptop computer. He could call up any of the satellite images to the

flat-screen by pushing a key or two on the laptop. Now, since the decryption

process was over, the images appeared almost instantaneously.

The fourth monitor was connected both to the server and to a laptop com-

puter being operated by Sergeant Major Jack Davidson, who Castillo had an-

nounced was “going to be our map guy.”

His job was to prepare and continuously update the maps that would be is-

sued—either in printed copies or as a computer file—to everyone who would

have need of one.

Like Castillo, Davidson could instantly call up on his laptop screen, and the

monitor, any of the maps and any other data stored in the database. The dif-

ference was that Davidson—and he alone—could change the data.

They were both devout believers in the adage—one that went back to the

dark ages, when maps were printed, hung on a wall, covered with a sheet of ac-

etate, and corrections and additions made with a grease pencil—that, “If more

than one man can make changes to a map, said map invariably will soon be fucked

up beyond all repair.”

They had worked together before, and they worked together now with a

smoothness born of practice.

The first satellite imagery had arrived in Nuestra Pequeña Casa an hour be-

fore Castillo and Bradley. It was the first photography of the site, and about all

it was good for was to enable Davidson to set up the system he knew Castillo

would want to use.

By the time Castillo and Bradley walked into the quincho, the refining data

had begun to come in. The first imagery had been much like the imagery pro-

vided by Google Earth, but in far greater resolution. It hadn’t shown anything

but suggestions of human activity.

The “refining data” that began to come in about the time Castillo and

Bradley walked in used a number of sensing techniques, at first primarily in-

frared. It sensed differences in temperature between objects in the target area.

Computer analyses of these defined what they were.

The easiest to identify were human beings. Their normal temperature was


3 8 1

a given. The ambient temperature of the area was known. A difference of so

many degrees determined with a great deal of certainty that that moving blob

was a human being. And that one a cow. And that one a dog.

Similarly, the heat generated by such things as open fires, stoves, internal

combustion engines—making the distinction between gasoline, diesel, and

size—was recognized by the computers at Fort Meade and transferred as “re-

fined data.”

The blobs were replaced with a symbol—an outline of a truck, for exam-

ple, or of a man—in which was a number estimating how confident, on a scale

of 1 to 5, the computer was of its interpretation.

There would be more refining data as more satellites passed over the target

area and the results of more sensing techniques were fed to the computers at

Fort Meade. But after Davidson had “laid” the first refining data on top of the

aerial photographs, what they had was enough for Castillo to make a decision.

“Bingo!” he said. “That has to be it.”

“What that is, Charley, is some sort of a hidden operation,” Davidson said,

reasonably. “A fairly large one, to judge by the bodies, and probably a refinery,

to judge by the large unknown infrared blobs.” He paused. “But none of this

data has Timmons’s name on it.”

“So what do we do, Jack?” Castillo had asked. “Send Bustamante or some-

one else back to penetrate? Running the risk that they get caught? In which case,

the best scenario would be that they would move Timmons and the gendarmes

someplace we couldn’t find them. Or cut their throats and toss them in

the river?”

“Don’t forget giving them an overdose,” Davidson said. He made a face of

frustration. “That’s why they pay you the big bucks, Charley, to make decisions

like that.”

“Or we just go in,” Castillo went on, “and if Timmons isn’t there, we kid-

nap a couple of them and arrange a swap.”

“I don’t think you want to do that,” Susanna said. “Do you?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Is that the same as ‘No, I won’t do that’?”


“Come on in, gentlemen,” Castillo called cheerfully as Comandante Duffy and

Captain D’Elia appeared in the quincho door. “And I’ll . . . oops!”

A third man—stocky, nearly bald, dark-skinned, and in his thirties—had

followed them in. Castillo had no idea who he was, and was already phrasing

3 8 2

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

how he would tell Duffy he was not to bring any of his gendarmes to the safe

house without prior permission when the man saluted very casually and, in Eng-

lish, introduced himself:

“Captain Urquila, Colonel,” he said. “I ran into D’Elia at the embassy, and

he said—since I hadn’t actually reported in to you—that I probably should

come out here and do it; that you were either here or would be shortly.”

Castillo returned the salute as casually.

“What were you doing at the embassy, Captain Urquila?” Castillo asked,

very softly and politely.

Davidson, who knew what it often meant when Castillo spoke very softly

and politely, looked concerned.

“I wanted to ask Mrs. Sieno, sir, when I could expect you to be in


“And how long have you been in country, Captain?” Castillo asked again,

softly and politely.

Urquila did the math in his head before replying.

“A week, sir. I got here the morning of the fifth. My team was up when Gen-

eral McNab laid this on us. I appointed myself and my medic the advance

party, and we were on the LAN Chile flight out of Miami that night.”

“You’ve been here a week, Captain—correct me if I’m wrong—and today

you went looking for Mrs. Sieno at the embassy?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“And—curiosity frankly overwhelms me, Captain—how have you passed

the time since you arrived in beautiful Argentina?”

“I’ve been nosing around Asunción, sir, looking for someplace where these

people could be holding this DEA guy.”

“You and your medic,” Castillo said, his tone making it more a question

than a statement.

“Just he and I at first, sir. But now my whole team is up there.”

“And why did you do that?”

“General McNab briefed me on the problem, sir, and when I came to see

Mrs. Sieno before . . .”

Is he saying he saw Susanna before?

Castillo looked at Susanna. She nodded.

“. . . right after I got here, and she said she didn’t really know where you

were, and to hang loose, I figured the best thing to do was start nosing around

looking for this place.”

“Tony’s found something very interesting, Colonel,” D’Elia offered.

“Really?” Castillo said. “And what would that be, Captain?”


3 8 3

“Well, there’s a sort of hidden compound on the Paraguayan side of the

river—right on the river—protected by some really heavy anti-intrusion stuff.

Including Claymores. Now, I’ve never seen this Timmons guy, but these peo-

ple have three guys chained together to a pole. Two of them are Latinos, wear-

ing some kind of brown uniform. The third is in a suit; he’s got light skin, and

I’d say the odds are he’s Timmons or whatever his name is.”

Jesus Christ!

“You’ve penetrated this compound?” Castillo asked, suddenly very serious.

“Not me, sir. My intel sergeant. Master Sergeant Ludwicz—”

“Skinhead Ludwicz?” Castillo interrupted. “That Master Sergeant Lud -


“Yes, sir. He said you two had been around the block a couple times.”

Maybe that’s who Bustamante saw on his intrusion!

I’ll be a sonofabitch!

“Indeed we have,” Castillo said.

“Well, he’s one hell of a penetrator, as you probably know, so he went in.

Alone. I didn’t want to take any more chances than I had to, until I knew what

was coming down.”

“And Skinhead says he saw two brown-uniformed Latinos and a gringo in

a suit, all chained to a pole?”

“Yes, sir. Sir, he said they have two bowls. One with water, one with food.

And that they . . . this is what Ludwicz said, sir . . . and that they looked

stoned, sir.”

“As if, for example, they had been injected with heroin?”

Captain Urquila shrugged.

“Personally, sir, I don’t know that I’d recognize the signs of someone on

heroin, what they’d look like. And Ludwicz didn’t say anything about seeing a

needle, sir. Just that they looked stoned.”

“Put the composite on the monitor, Jack,” Castillo ordered.

“Why don’t you have a look at this, Comandante?” Castillo said.

The composite appeared a second later.

Duffy’s eyes widened.

“What is that?” he asked.

“Your compound look anything like this, Captain?” Castillo asked.

Urquila examined the composite very carefully and shook his head.

“That’s not it?” Castillo asked, incredulously.

“Oh, that’s it,” Urquila said. “I should have known you’d be way ahead of

me. Colonel, I hope I haven’t fucked anything up by sending Ludwicz in

there . . .”

3 8 4

W . E . B . G R I F F I N

“Come here, Captain,” Castillo said, gesturing with his hands for Urquila

to move in very close. When he had, Castillo grabbed both of Urquila’s ears and

kissed him wetly on the forehead.

“Captain Urquila, I love you. I love Skinhead Ludwicz and I love you!”

Captain Urquila and Comandante Duffy both looked somewhat dazed.

“Corporal Bradley!” Castillo called.


“There is a bottle of Famous Grouse single-malt in my room. I have been

saving it for a special occasion. This is it! Go get it!”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Bradley and the Famous Grouse single-malt appeared three minutes later. But

Bradley was not alone. Edgar Delchamps and David Yung followed him into

the quincho.

“You really should let people know when you come home, Daddy,”

Delchamps greeted him. “Otherwise, Two-Gun and me will start to think you

don’t love us.”

“Sorry, Ed. I just wanted to see what the satellite—”

“Is that why you’re celebrating?” Delchamps asked, and crossed the room

so that he could look at the monitors.

He moved quickly, but not as quickly as Sergeant Major Davidson’s fingers

on his laptop keyboard.

All four monitors now displayed images of provocatively posed naked

young females.

Delchamps gave Davidson the finger.

“Me, too, Jack,” Susanna Sieno said, disgustedly. “Really!”

Davidson hit more keys and the composite came back up on the center


“What are we looking at?” Delchamps asked.

“That’s where these people have Timmons and two gendarmes chained to

a pole,” Castillo said. “It’s a couple of miles south of Asunción. In Paraguay.”

Believed to be the location,” Delchamps asked, “or confirmed to be?”

“We have a visual from a very good man,” Castillo said. “Master Sergeant

Ludwicz, who is Captain Urquila’s intel sergeant.” He pointed to Urquila. “First

name Tony, right?”

Urquila nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“This is Ed Delchamps, known as The Dinosaur, and Two-Gun Yung of the

Federal Bureau of Ignorance.”

The men nodded at each other.


3 8 5

“For real, Urquila?” Delchamps asked. “You got a man into this place and

got an eyes-on?”

Castillo said, “What Ludwicz saw was two guys in brown uniforms and a

gringo in a suit. Chained to a pole, and probably doped up. That’s what we’re

going on.”

“I asked him, Ace, but okay. That’s enough really good news to start pour-

ing the sauce, Lester, my boy, but the colonel don’t get none.”

“Might I dare to inquire why not?” Castillo responded.

“There are several obvious reasons,” Delchamps said. “But primarily because

you’re about to fly Two-Gun and me to Montevideo. And I have this perhaps

foolish aversion to being flown about by a sauced-up pilot.”

“Curiosity overwhelms me. Why am I flying you and Two-Gun to Monte-

video? Why can’t you go commercial? And what are the other obvious reasons

to which you allude?”

“Well, Ace, if you insist—about three inches, please, Lester, two ice cubes

and no water—for one thing, Ordóñez wants to see you before Ambassador

Lorimer arrives, which will be about seven P.M. if Miller is to be believed. And

what is The Gimp doing flying that airplane? I am wondering. For another, be-

fore you slip into your armor and gallop off on your white horse to do battle

with the forces of evil, we have to have a long chat about what the CIA is up

to in Asunción, and I want you to be sober for that.”

“And what evil is the CIA up to in Asunción?”

Castillo was having trouble restraining a smile. Captain Urquila had ab-

solutely no idea what was going on, and it showed on his face.

“When I explain that to you, Ace, I’m sure you will have cause to shame-

fully remember what you said about Two-Gun being a member of the Federal

Bureau of Ignorance.”

“Oh, I doubt that!”

“That’s because I haven’t told you what splendid service Inspector John J.

Doherty has rendered to our noble cause.”

“Which is?”

“I will tell you on the way to Montevideo, on which journey will we

embark immediately after Brother Davidson has explained to me the com-

puter game he is playing. And, of course, after I finish this drink and probably

another. I always need a little liquid courage in order to fly with you at the


He turned a chair around and sat in it backward, facing the monitor.

“You may proceed, Brother Davidson,” Delchamps said. “And speak slowly

and use itsy-bitsy words, as Two-Gun will also be watching, and I don’t want

to have to explain everything all over again to him.”



Jet-Stream Aviation

Jorge Newbery International Airport

Buenos Aires, Argentina

1735 12 September 2005

Corporal Lester Bradley was in the copilot seat of the Aero Commander, hold-

ing Castillo’s laptop, with which Castillo was going to navigate their route to

Montevideo. Edgar Delchamps and David Yung sat behind them, trying with

little success to get Max to move to the area behind their seats.

“We’re up, sir,” Bradley announced.

Castillo looked at the laptop screen. There was a representation of an au-

tomobile—Casey’s programmers had yet to add the option of an aircraft icon—

sitting just off the single main runway of the downtown airport.

“You guys ready?” Castillo asked over his shoulder as he reached for the mai