The Bourne Deception

Munich, Germany/Bali, Indonesia

I SPEAK RUSSIAN well enough,” Secretary of Defense Bud Halliday said, “but I prefer to speak English.”

“That suits me,” the Russian colonel said with a heavy accent. “I’m always happy to speak foreign languages.”

Halliday gave the Russian a sour smile in response to his jibe. It was well told that Americans overseas only wanted to speak English.

“Good. We’ll get this done faster.” But instead of beginning, he stared at a wall full of very bad portraits of jazz greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, copied, he had no doubt, from press photos.

After seeing the colonel in the flesh he had begun to have second thoughts about this meeting. For one thing, he was younger than Halliday had imagined. His blond hair was thick, without the slightest wave, and cut short in the style of the Russian military. For another, he looked like a man of action. Halliday could see, beneath his suit, the play of muscles as now and again they bulged against the cheap material. He possessed a peculiar stillness that unsettled Halliday. But it was his eyes—pale, deep-set, unblinking—that truly unnerved the secretary. It was as if he were looking at a photograph of eyes rather than the real thing. The bulbous, veiny nose only served to intensify their implacable peculiarity: It was as if there was no one home, as if the soul of the man did not exist, leaving nothing but a monolithic will, like something ancient and evil Halliday had read about in an H. P. Lovecraft story when he was a teenager.

He trampled the impulse to get up, walk out, and never look back. He had come all this way for a reason, he reminded himself.

The smog that choked Munich—the same precise shade of filthy gray as Karpov’s eyes—perfectly mirrored Secretary Halliday’s mood. If he never saw this miserable excuse for a city again it would be too soon for him. Unfortunately, here he was in this godforsaken, smoke-clogged subterranean jazz club, having stepped out of the back of an armored Lincoln limousine onto tourist-infested Rumfordstrasse. What was so special about the Russian to bring the American secretary of defense forty-two hundred miles to a city he despised? Boris Karpov was a colonel in FSB-2, ostensibly the new Russian anti-drug enforcement agency. It was a measure of the FSB-2’s meteoric rise to power that one of its officers was able to get a message to Halliday, let alone entice him out of Washington.

But Karpov had hinted that he could deliver something Halliday wanted very much. The defense secretary might have been wondering what that might be, but he was too busy trying to figure out what the Russian would want in return. There was always a quid pro quo to these deals, Halliday knew only too well. He was a veteran of the political infighting that perpetually surrounded the president like a Kansas dust storm. He knew full well that quid pro quos could be painful to accept, but compromise was the name of the political game, whether it be domestic or international.

Even so, Halliday might not have taken up Karpov’s offer had it not been for his own suddenly tenuous position with the president. The shockingly abrupt fall from power of Luther LaValle, his handpicked intelligence czar, had shaken Halliday’s power base. Friends and allies alike were criticizing or second-guessing him behind his back, and he had to wonder which one of them would be the first to sink the metaphorical knife into his back.

But he’d been around long enough to understand that hope sometimes arrived in seemingly unpleasant forms, like