It was supposed to be a terrorist sting. The guns were supposed to be disabled. Then why was there so much blood?
The target was the American Airlines Center, the home of the Dallas Mavericks. The FBI had told Ahmed Shakir that his drug bust would go away if he helped them, and they'd supply all the weaponry, carefully removing the firing pins before the main event. It never occurred to Ahmed to doubt them, until it was too late.
When John Wells is called to Washington, he's sure it's to investigate the carnage in Dallas, but it isn't. The former CIA director, now president, Vinnie Duto has plenty of people working in Texas. He wants Wells to go to Colombia. An old asset there has information to share-and it will lead Wells to the deadliest mission of his life, an extraordinary confluence of sleeper cells, sniper teams, false flag operations, double agents high in the U.S. government-and a Russian plot to take over the government itself. If it succeeds, what happened in Texas will be only a prelude.
This is Alex Berenson's twelfth novel featuring John Wells. As a reporter for The New York Times, Berenson covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq--where he was stationed for three months--to the flooding of New Orleans, to the world pharmaceutical industry, to the financial crimes of Bernard Madoff. He graduated from Yale University in 1994 with degrees in history and economics, and lives in New York City. The Faithful Spy won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel.
Praise for The Deceivers "Smart, prescient, and harrowing...'The Manchurian Candidate' for a new generation."--Providence Journal
"The fantastic plot, character development and action are insidiously riveting."--Connecticut Day
"[T]imely...Berenson's knowledge of geopolitical issues and government intelligence strategies impresses."--Publishers Weekly
"Another enjoyable entry."--Kirkus Reviews
"Combin[es] former reporter Berenson's always-shrewd grasp of international politics with his equally impressive ability to construct involved stories whose convolutions never interrupt the full-throttle narrative drive....Another wonderful suspense novel that leaves readers shuddering with the realization that this isn't nearly as unbelievable as it should be."--Booklist (starred review)
"An electrifying thriller that's not to be missed."--The Real Book Spy
"[T]imely... Berenson's knowledge of geopolitical issues and government intelligence strategies impresses." -- Publishers Weekly "Another enjoyable entry." -- Kirkus Reviews "...Combin[es] former reporter Berenson's always-shrewd grasp of international politics with his equally impressive ability to construct involved stories whose convolutions never interrupt the full-throttle narrative drive. ... Another wonderful suspense novel that leaves readers shuddering with the realization that this isn't nearly as unbelievable as it should be." -- Booklist (starred review)
The Russians don't just want to influence American elections--they want it all. Former CIA agent John Wells confronts a plot of astonishing audacity as New York Times -bestselling author Alex Berenson goes beyond today's headlines to tomorrow's all-too-real threats.
1 Columbus, Georgia The Waffle House lay on Victory Drive, close by Commando Military Supply and the gates to Fort Benning, the two-hundred-eighty-square-mile base where the Army made soldiers into Rangers. John Wells remembered the restaurant from his own training, more than two decades before. Back then, he''d still basically been a Montana boy. He''d come to Dartmouth for college, been shocked by the superior attitude so many East Coast kids put on. But Georgia had held its own surprises. At least Montana and New Hampshire both had mountains, even if the Bitterroots were bigger. Down here, the land was slap flat and swamp-cut. Anyway, as far as Wells could tell, the Waffle House hadn''t changed. Not the waitresses, not the plastic booths, maybe not the fryer grease. The Ranger instructors eating one booth over looked the same, too. Square-jawed and narrow-eyed. Mostly white. Maybe a few more tattoos. They shoveled scrambled eggs in their mouths like they were machines for the ingestion of food. Cut, chew, swallow. Cut, chew, swallow. Wash it all down with the black liquid that Waffle House called coffee. They were almost too tired to speak, Wells saw. Though not as tired as the soldiers they were training. Nothing in peacetime replicated combat, but Ranger School tried. Rangers lead the way, the unit''s motto went. The training program was meant to weed out any soldier who couldn''t. It was famously tough, especially at the beginning. Candidates were deprived of sleep and food while facing timed marches and the Darby Queen, a barbed-wire-studded obstacle course. Soldiers qualified through airborne training and a four-week starter course before they even had a chance at Fort Benning. Still, about sixty percent failed. Many who did pass had to repeat at least one part of the three-phase program. Not Wells. He''d gone through in the minimum sixty-two days. He was made for soldiering. Not just because he was strong and lean and quick. Because he knew intuitively how to survive, to narrow his focus. Not to think ahead, not to promise himself that he''d get through this day or week but simply to get through . A most un-Buddhist form of mindfulness. So Wells went from Dartmouth to the Rangers, the Rangers to the Central Intelligence Agency, Langley to the Hindu Kush, the Kush back to the United States. Only the start of his travels. Two decades of spying and fighting, killing and not quite dying. He''d resigned from the agency but discovered he needed it as much as it seemed to need him. He''d become a Muslim, too, finding comfort, of sorts, in a faith not his own. And why not? All faiths were foreign in the end, walks through dark woods. Had he changed? He supposed he must have. From the start, he''d been unafraid to kill, to take what he could never give back. Yet his dreams troubled him more than they once had-- "Need anything?" The waitress''s smoke-roughened voice. Meaning: You''ve been sitting in this booth a while, time to order more or move on. Hungry soldiers waited by the door. Wells hadn''t woolgathered this way twenty years ago, that he knew. "Scrambled eggs with cheese. Triple order hash browns." "Triple? Coming up." She offered him a broke-down smile and turned away. The United States had two thousand Waffle Houses, not one in the Northeast or on the West Coast. Places for working people who needed quick food cheap and cheap food quick. The eggs were iffy, but the hash browns were delicious, as long as Wells didn''t think about what they were doing to his arteries. He was waiting for his son. Evan. Though Evan didn''t think of Wells as his father. Another man had raised the boy while Wells snaked the world''s drains. Yet Evan, a grown man now, had decided to become a Ranger. Wells wasn''t quite sure why. He was proud, but he feared Evan didn''t understand the choice he''d made. Evan had been one of the first-week Fort Benning failures. Not his fault. He''d blown his Achilles tendon eleven miles into the twelve-mile road march, the week''s concluding exercise. Twelve miles didn''t sound like much, except the candidates carried close to a hundred pounds of gear. Because Evan had failed for medical reasons, he could rehab here while he waited for another chance. If he wanted. He''d called Wells the day before, two days after the injury, asked him to come to Georgia. "Pep talk?" "Something like that." All his life, Evan had carried a golden ticket. Now defeat hung in his voice. Wells caught a dawn flight from Boston to Atlanta, rented a car for the easy hundred-mile drive to Columbus, on the Georgia-Alabama border. Eleven a.m., and here he was. He watched Evan park his gray Toyota Highlander--the SUV too new, too nice, for a young soldier, a vehicle that would earn Evan scorn rather than respect. The door swung open, and Evan hobbled out, a heavy white boot on his ankle. Like Wells, he was tall, with brown hair and cool-brown eyes. Though Evan was slimmer than Wells, more lithe. He was a superb basketball player, just a half step slow for the NBA. He''d started at shooting guard for San Diego State''s nationally ranked team. Wells met him at the door, gave him a hug that would have been awkward even if Evan hadn''t been wearing the boot. "John." Evan rarely called him Dad. "Couldn''t take me somewhere classy like Denny''s?" "You don''t know what you''re missing." "That''s what she said." Evan banged his foot into the edge of a booth and grimaced. "Maybe focus on walking." The hash browns beat them to the booth. "If this is what getting old is like, I''ll skip it," Evan said. "You may reconsider." Wells helped him sit. "How''s Anne? You''re living together, right?" So they were, in the farmhouse in New Hampshire that had become as much of a home as Wells expected to find. Anne was Wells''s girlfriend , partner --whatever term of art the kids used these days. Not wife , though. Wells had proposed and been refused twice now. She''d told him she didn''t want a ring, she wanted his heart, and she''d know when his heart was ready. Left unsaid were the words And it''s never gonna be. Though his unready heart hadn''t stopped them from having a daughter together. And now-- "Anne''s pregnant." The first time he''d spoken the words aloud. He felt a swell of masculine pride despite the foolishness of having another child out of wedlock. But why not? He and Anne were good parents. And, truth, if anything happened to him, he''d put enough money aside to make sure the kids would have their educations paid for. Beyond that . . . Anne was smart and steady and he supposed he trusted she would find someone else. Evan had done all right without him. "Seriously? Another half sister?" "Sonogram says brother ." "You know there are these things called condoms, John--" Evan grinned in genuine pleasure. "Why didn''t you tell me before?" "I''m telling you now." What he wasn''t telling, and wouldn''t: Anne had miscarried three times since Emmie, their daughter. Wells hadn''t wanted to say anything until they were sure. But she was sixteen weeks along, and the sonogram and every genetic test ever invented said the baby was healthy. "Congratulations." "Thank you." "Glad one of us has good news, anyway." "What happened?" Evan grimaced, reliving the injury. "I felt the tendon getting super-tight, which used to happen at the end of games sometimes. Then Snap! I heard it even before I felt it. Then I was on my ass, like someone took a blowtorch to my leg. The other guys tried to help me. I knew I wasn''t going anywhere. I told them, Don''t stop, don''t mess up your march. Just waited for the NCOs. Man, it hurt. But that''s not the part that''s messed up." Wells waited. "Felt like I''d gotten a get-out-of-jail-free card." Evan mumbled now as if the words burned his mouth. "I can''t stand these rules. Sergeants yelling at me. Surfer boy!Pretty boy! College boy! And the other soldiers, they''re barely eighteen, they all think it''s a big gym class. Jackasses." "If I recall, you engaged in a bit of jackassery in San Diego." "I don''t want to sound like a snob, but--" "But you are, and you didn''t even know until you got here." "We barely get any sleep, anyway, and they won''t shut up all night. Talking about how much ass they''ll get when they tell girls they''re -Rangers. And when are they gonna blow claymores and try the 249." "You''re telling me you don''t want to shoot a machine gun?" "Worst part is, all this crap about how they can''t wait to get deployed so they can start killing Arabs. Make them pay for what happened last week. " The funerals were still happening in Dallas, the flags still at half-staff. " Nuke Syria. They don''t even know the difference between Sunni and Shia. Remember a few years ago, in Missoula--" At the time, Evan had accused Wells of being a psychopath, a contract killer whose sole client was the United States government. "And you grew up." "I saw it was more complicated. But this takes me back to that, because that''s all these guys want. Was it like that when you were here?" Wells nodded. Though, back then, the imagined targets had been the Russians and the Chinese. Chink-chonk-cho, I shoot you, ah-so. Fortunately, that guy had washed out. "They''re nervous. Trying to hide it." "They don''t sound nervous. They sound amped . If that''s what it takes to kill people, I don''t have it." The real reason
A terrorist sting gone intentionally wrong results in puddles of blood, but John Wells is not asked to investigate but to contact an old asset who has information to share: the Russians are planning to take over the U.S. government.