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“The Enemy Within is loaded with fascinating details about how federal-level investigations can waste time and lives. . . . A muscular story with great bones.”—USA Today
“The Enemy Within is a great story, written intelligently and introducing a very sympathetic main character.”—The Dallas Morning News
“[A] high-octane thriller,,, Hynd is a solid, dependable writer with enough literary flair to move him up a few notches above the Ludlums and Clancys of the world. —Booklist
It is early summer of 2009, an uneasy time in the American capital. Washington is tense over a showdown between the United States and the new ruler of Libya.
Laura Chapman is a U.S. Secret Service agent assigned to the White House. She is quirky, solitary, and frequently unorthodox. She is sexy and fit, adept with a pistol as well as with a hundred-pound Everlast bag. But she is also a brilliant intelligence analyst. That’s why she has been assigned to the Presidential Protection Detail for the past eleven years.
The CIA assigns Laura to a case that borders on the unthinkable: an assassination plot against the new president. Shockingly, the trigger man will be a member of the United States Secret Service.
Since the CIA knows that the assassin is male, Laura is not a suspect. The odds are heavily against her locating an alleged assassin within the Service, and even more heavily against her surviving the assignment.
(Author’s note: Some strong language and adult situations in this e-book edition.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
THE ENEMY WITHIN:
Crisis in Washington
Revised 2011 e-book edition
By Noel Hynd
(Author’s note: This book contains some strong language and adult situations.)
(Author’s further note: This book was originally written in 2004 and published by Forge in 2006. At the time, the year 2009 was modestly into the future and the story was a conjecture upon upcoming events. While I’ve revised the original manuscript, the original dates and story lines have been retained in keeping with the integrity of the original story.)
Coming events cast their
shadows before them.
December 20th, 2009
It is cold on December mornings when the wind howls in from the Potomac and cuts icily across the National Cemetery. It is colder still when a young woman is being buried.
The coffin was above an open patient grave, draped with the fifty-two-star flag of the United States. Puerto Rico had become a state in 2008 and the District of Columbia had followed in early 2009.
A young military chaplain named Sullivan presided. He was already frozen.
It was twenty degrees. It felt colder.
Sullivan glanced at his watch.
Eight thirty a.m. He eyed the one man and one woman in attendance. There was also an honor guard of four soldiers, one from each branch of the armed forces. The woman in the coffin had paid a terrible price to have them there.
The chaplain gave a nod, not to the soldiers but to the civilian witnesses.
“Let us begin,” he said softly.
As if on cue, a light snow began to fall.
Two ironies simultaneously. The deceased had hated the cold. And this was not a beginning. It was an ending.
Sullivan spoke softly, rapidly muttering a prayer that no one could hear because of the harsh wind. Words on the icy air, brief and appropriate, but impersonal. The snow thickened.
At a few minutes before nine, the casket descended into the earth. The honor guard fired final salutes, rifles crackling toward an iron gray sky.
The service was over. With a nod, the chaplain dismissed the soldiers.
The man and the woman who had been observers looked at each other, each silently connecting to a sadness that was difficult to describe. The man walked with a severe limp.
It was not that there was nothing to say. It was that it had all already been said.
Their thoughts, however, could have filled volumes, not the least of which being that cemeteries were filled with memories and spirits.
Neither was any stranger to both. The woman reflected on a quote from John F. Kennedy. “Life is unfair.”
It was. And Kennedy, murdered while in office, was buried only a hundred yards away.
* * *
Yesterday and today
The primary task of the U.S. Secret Service is the protection of the President of the United States, the Vice President, their families and other notables, including federal judges, candidates for the Presidency and visiting heads of state.
Every generation, there have been dramatic examples of agents doing their jobs: Special Agent Clint Hill crawling onto the body of Jackie Kennedy, protecting her when her husband had been shot. Special Agent Michael Cornwell, who wrestled a loaded pistol from Squeaky Fromme when she aimed it at President Gerald Ford. Special Agent Tim McCarthy, who charged — and took a bullet in the midsection from — the pistol of John Hinkley, who had already put one bullet within half an inch of President Ronald Reagan’s heart.
Part of the skill of a good agent is the ability to blend into the background. Agents accompanied Chelsea Clinton to Stanford University while other agents accompanied her father — and Presidents Ford and Eisenhower before him — onto various fairways with machine guns stowed in golf bags.
In the early 1960’s, there was the agent known as “Father St. Joseph.” who, in the garb of a priest, chauffeured women in and out of the White House for John F. Kennedy.
United States Secret Service.
The agency evokes images of men in dark glasses, earphones and suits jogging beside the Presidential limousine, or scanning the hands of people greeting the President. But the majority of agents are stationed in one hundred field offices around the country — and a few around the world, officially and unofficially. A typical workday is devoted to investigative tasks of varying difficulty, mostly checking out the more than twenty thousand reports received annually from citizens about a perceived threat to the President’s life.
About two hundred serious threats are investigated every month. Annually, about five hundred of these cases are sufficiently serious to lead to an arrest. Since September 11, 2001, the number has increased dramatically.
Additionally, four or five individuals in an average week attempt to penetrate White House security. Half of these people are armed, an equal number are mentally ill. Some hit the Secret Service “daily double” — they are both armed and mentally ill. Most are dangerous and most have a grievance, usually imagined, against the government. Many have been egged on by talk-radio windbags, some hear their own private voices. The most dangerously delusional are often the most normal in appearance.
So many individuals try to get at the President of the United States that the notion of stopping one hundred percent of them is a frightening concept. Some of them, unknown to the public, get dramatically close.
During the Clinton administration, one nut with an automatic weapon sprayed gunfire at the East Wing of the White House. Another crashed a light plane onto the White House lawn.
In 1995, to make the final line of protection more cohesive, the Secret Service established a security perimeter around the White House, closing off Pennsylvania Avenue to traffic, thus preventing a car or truck bomb from being set off in front of the White House.
It was there on July 24, l998 that the security perimeter stopped a gunman named Russell Eugene Weston, Jr. who had traveled from Montana to Washington to kill the President. Thwarted in his attempt to get near the White House, Weston turned his attention to the Capitol. There he murdered two policemen before being shot to death himself.
A young Secret Service agent named Laura Chapman arrived in Washington the same day as the Weston incident and worked her first full shift at the White House. She would stay on that assignment for approximately eleven years, including sick and injury leave. She would work primarily for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — “Elvis” and “Pointy Ears” in Secret Service jargon — over the course of her career. She liked both men personally yet on occasion was appalled at the personal behavior or policies of both. Then she worked for a third man, Bush’s successor, whom she never grew to know too well.
Over the years, she was usually one of a few female agents on duty at the White House.
Later she would remember thinking — in reference to the Weston incident as well as others — that when there is homicide within a man, it is often impossible to stop him right up until the moment he strikes.
Many things haunted Laura Chapman, but the accuracy and irony of that thought would be among the foremost for the duration of her life.
On her first day at the White House there would be an assassination attempt.
And then, on her last official day on the same posting, there would be another.
Or so she believed.
* * * * *
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
June 7, 2009, 12:24 a.m. CST
The frightened Mexican known as Chico balked at the top of a steep sandy hill. It was dark and past midnight. He had led the two Americans this far and even though the night was hot, his feet were cold. An odd pair escorted him. A big blond gringo policeman and a gringo gangster. The two gringos confirmed Chico’s lifelong feeling that there was not much difference between the cops and criminals north of the Rio Grande, or Río Bravo as the Mexicans called it.
“Down there, señores,” the Mexican said, indicating. The moon was a bright half crescent, a big yellow tattoo on a black sky.
The two Americans glared at him.
“Show us,” said one of the gringos.
The one who spoke was the federal gringo . He stood six two, he was a güero, a blond man, in his mid-thirties. He had a tough clean face. His hair was as short as his patience. His hand held a nine millimeter Glock. His bearing suggested that he had experience using it.
The Mexican trembled. No question who was in charge.
They stood at the summit of an unofficial burial ground two miles south of the Tex-Mex border at El Paso-Ciudad Juárez. A patch of moonlit hell-on-earth. The terrified people of the local village, Tiaczipia, called this area la campa de los angelos: a dumping ground for murder victims, both local and sometimes from as far away as Mexico City. Just bury them properly and the local police, los rurales, would never ask embarrassing questions.
“Hey, why you no kill me now?” Chico snapped, “You going to kill me no how, so Madre de Jesús, you kill me now and get it done!”
The Mexican’s breath smelled like kerosene.
The American lawman angered. It was a scary, a man with a canon in his hand gradually losing his patience. He spoke softly. Velvet wrapped around steel. The blond man was methodical and patient, with sharp intelligent blue eyes. But he was cold as cobalt.
A genuine assassin.
“One more time, Chico,” the American said. “You don’t show us where the grave is, and I do blow your brains out. Then I leave you here so that you can bake in your Mexican sun tomorrow morning and the vultures can pick at your eyeballs. Comprende?”
The Glock pointed upward with five inch barrel. The American poked the Mexican in the chest with the gun. Hard. The Mexican winced.
“Bullets hurt worse, Chico,” the blond man said. “So move.”
The second American was a shorter darker man known as Vincent, a muscle boy from South Florida, swarthy and unshaven. He was connected to a South Beach syndicate that laundered money, found, trained and exploited high price whores, and did import-export of questionable pharmaceuticals.
Vincent was a Salvitalian. Italian father and Salvadorian mother. He spoke three languages, none of them well, all of them with a menacing tones.
The Salvitalian had murdered four men and one woman in three countries. He had maimed a few more, blowing out knee caps and backbones as business dictated.
He was sweating like a pig, too. Still, no one moved. The Mexican knew well that when three people walked down this hill usually only two walked back up.
Sometimes only one.
“Gringos hijos de puta. Big deal,” the Mexican said. “Don’t matter if you kill me. Screw you.”
“Okay,” the blond man said softly. “We’ll do it the unpleasant way.” The American reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a silencer. He briskly screwed it onto the Glock.
The Mexican had an epiphany. “Está bien, se lo maestro – All right. I show you,” he said. He cursed long and low.
The Mexican led the two Americans down the long sandy hillside. They faced north and could easily see the Rio Grande, the lights of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez and the long straight highways of the south Texas badlands that led into the border cities.
The federal let his eyes wander. He saw the spotlight at the border crossing and could discern the U.S. flag that waved there.
The Mexican continued to curse in Spanish. Vincent shoved him in the center of the shoulders and told him to shut up. The blond American kept a ten foot distance, the Glock pressed to his leg.
The terrain was soft, uneven and marked with brush. The Mexican knew where to step. Vincent carried a hand lantern in one hand and a shovel in the other. Both Americans watched the Mexican’s feet carefully, following his footsteps one by one.
They found a set of sagging steps anchored into the steepest part of the incline. They walked upon rotting slats which passed over trenches a dozen feet deep. The wood groaned.
The gunman was alert for Chico to make a run for his life. He was ready to fire across the Mexican’s legs to bring him down if he had to, but he was not going back —- not to Washington, not to Texas, not even back up these rickety steps — without finding what he was looking for.
The steps led to a dilapidated shack, a one-time check point. The shack was wooden with a flimsy door. A flimsy padlock hung on a latch.
“Cut the light,” the blond said, referring to the lantern. Vincent found the right button.
“Any reason to expect anyone here?” the blond man asked. The Mexican shook his head. The blond man raised the Glock, the silenced nose pointing upward. “Break open the door.”
Chico put a shoulder to the door and shoved hard.
Chunks of rotting splintered wood flew from the door at each impact. But the old copper hinges held. The Mexican hit the door a third time. Three times lucky.
The wood gave way with a crunching sound and burst from its bolts. The Mexican stepped back. Vincent held the Mexican’s arm while all three waited.
Any hail of bullets would have come here. The federal stayed behind the Mexican. Let the spic take the first six shots, he figured, then he could empty his own artillery into the place.
Vincent pushed the Mexican through the door. The Americans kept the Mexican close to him, using him as a human shield. Vincent waved the lantern.
No one home.
A filthy floor strewn with shredded newspapers, dead tequila bottles and bald tires.
Drug paraphernalia in one corner. A mattress littered with used condoms.
“You got a real hell hole of a country here, Chico, you know that?” Vincent said. “What’s this? The Presidential palace?” Vincent had a voice like two large stones grinding together.
The Mexican gave a jerk to his arm. Vincent slapped him hard across the skull.
The cabin was the size of a one-car garage. There was a narrow uneven doorway on the other side, open and leading out to the continuation of the wooden path another hundred feet down the hillside. Vincent clicked his lantern on again for a second and slashed the pathway with a quick yellow beam.
They continued downward. They passed a small wooden cross, jagged and crooked. Some brave kid had climbed the hillside and constructed the cross out of wire and a smashed orange crate — probably for a brother or father who was buried there. Maybe a sister.
Local religion or local superstition. The natives of Tiaczipia had lost their share of relatives to the hillside. Gang wars, drug feuds, badly timed moments of adultery and crazy Saturday nights. Plus that particular Mexican attitude toward death.
They proceeded another fifty feet downward. The Gringos were dumped on the west side of the path, Chico explained, and the Mexicans on the east.
After a few more moments, the Mexican stopped. He looked at a formation of rocks and trees. He pointed to a patch of clay and dirt fifteen paces west of the wooden path.
“There, señor,” he said softly.
He indicated a mound of earth that was larger than the others. The body down there was fresher and perhaps bigger. “I buried him myself. Me and my brother. My brother’s a priest.”
The American looked at the spot and looked at the Mexican. “Nice,” he said. He took the shovel out of Vincent’s hand and pressed it to the Mexican.
“Now show me,” the blond man demanded.
The Mexican was furious. “You say you only want to see the spot!”
“I lied,” the American answered. “Dig.”
Chico exhaled a long disgusted breath. “No.”
The American readied the pistol.
Chico glared back, snatched the shovel and pushed away a rock. A swarm of insects buzzed up. Chico cursed and waved the swarm away. The Americans retreated several feet.
Vincent remained standing, shuffling his large feet, always glancing around. The big man was riddled with apprehension. Meanwhile, the blond man settled down and sat on the skeleton of a discarded chair, holding his pistol across his knee.
“Don’t keep us in this crap hole all night!” the American said. “Get to work and we can all get out of here.”
He lit a dark cigarette and smoked it, settling in for a dig that could take a while.
The Mexican hoisted the shovel and angrily set to his task.
* * *
June 7, 2009; 2:45 a.m. CST
In the makeshift cemetery, the earth came up easily by the shovelful. The grave was fresh, which helped too. Vincent paced and kept the lantern partially muffled.
The blond American surveyed the little dunes that marked the rolling sandy plot while the vestiges of his cigar smoke drifted slowly like little ghosts. When the American looked very carefully into the Hispanic side of the dumping ground, he saw that the sand was littered with small pathetic offerings to the murdered.
Catholic statues. Plastic saints. Tiny bouquets, real and fake.
Rosary beads. Little wax disks which had once been candles.
Grieving wives, mothers and children, no doubt made quiet pilgrimages here. All the more reason to let the lantern be seen. It would keep the innocent bystanders away tonight. As for the police, the rurales knew better. In northern Mexico, nothing got a man’s throat cut faster than wandering across the wrong activity in the moonlight.
The American’s gaze slid through the shadows and settled ten feet away on the carcass of a dead chicken. In pieces. Chopped up. Santería or a teen gang?
He finished a sixth cigarette. A solid nicotine kick coursed through him. Then he heard a distinctive crack from the shovel. The Mexican had hit bones. The blond man quickly stood.
Vincent moved forward, also, and went to the unmarked graveside. The federal took the lantern from Vincent. The Mexican stepped out of the hole. The American gazed down. So did Vincent. Vincent looked away fast and cursed.
“Keep going,” the blond man said to the Mexican.
“Move! I need a good look! And you’re going to give it to me!”
The Mexican’s next lunge hit the skeleton even harder, but the third was not as loud because it hit dirt as well as flesh. As the American continued to stare down, dirt came away from a dead man’s decomposing face. There was a maggot’s nest around the nose and worms. Big thick caranchatua ones crawled out of the dead man’s mouth.
The eyebrows were still on the corpse, though the skin was darkened. The teeth were in good shape, but the lips were gone. The lower part of the skull was contorted in a ghoulish grin.
“I want to see his clothes,” the American said without emotion.
The Mexican cursed in Spanish, but cleared away the deep blue dress uniform of a United States Marine. The name plate was missing. So were any medals. But the merit ribbons were still present, and the dead man’s arms were folded helter-skelter across his rotting chest.
That answered a question the blond man needed to know: There were discolored chevrons on the marine’s arms. Faded yellow and red. The deceased had been a gunnery sergeant.
“That him?” asked Vincent.
“That’s him,” the other American said. He lowered his gun.
“Good job, Chico. Gracias,” he said.
The Mexican sighed in relief.
Several seconds passed. “If you want, señor,” the Mexican said, “I come back tomorrow with a crucifix and I plant it here for your amigo.”
“Yeah,” the American answered. He looked lost in thought for a moment, then he came back to earth. “Crucifix. Great idea, Chico. There’s a dead U.S. Marine down there. So some holy mumbo-jumbo statue of Hay-Zeus is sure going to make him feel better, huh?”
The Mexican started to sweat again.
He was about to say something else when the blond man raised the pistol and pulled off two shots. He fired so fast that the Mexican, hit flush between the eyes with the first bullet, was still fully upright for the second one, which smashed into the center of the forehead.
Chico dropped like a puppet, strings amputated.
A groaning gurgle rose upward from his throat.
Then nothing else.
Vincent recoiled, faintly splattered. The murder was brutal even by underworld standards.
“Good god,” the Salvitalian muttered.
The federal stared at the body. One of the Mexican’s legs was quivering. So the gunman leaned forward and pumped a final bullet through Chico’s heart. The leg spasmed a final time.
Vincent grimaced again.
The blond man looked at him and handed him back the lantern. “So what the hell’s wrong with you? You’ve killed people.”
Vincent thought about it, but did not answer.
“Get his money,” the blond American ordered.
“We killed him. We might as well rob him.”
“Are you crazy? Let’s get out of here.”
“He had a thousand dollars on him in fifties two hours ago, birdbrain,” the blond man said. “And he hasn’t been out of our sight. What does that mean to you? Anything?”
The Salvitalian looked at the hard Irish face and he looked at the dead Mexican. He did not want to think about the ghoul-headed military corpse three feet deep in the sand, though he could feel the dead man’s eye holes staring up at him. This venue, and the world that surrounded it, was more alive with spirits than anyone could have feared.
Vincent knelt at the graveside. He set aside the lantern and ransacked the Mexican’s pockets. Sure enough. The Mexican still had had a thick wad of American money. A roll of fifties packed into a wide blue rubber band.
Vincent was rising again when the other American poked the nose of the Glock against Vincent’s skull, For half an agonized second, Vincent knew what was coming.
He opened his mouth to yell but the words never escaped his throat.
The federal pulled the trigger twice quickly. Blood and bone erupted from Vincent’s skull, so close to the gunman it sprayed him. Vincent tumbled across the body of the Mexican.
The field of death was now very still, very quiet. Even the tortured souls and spirits weren’t immediately to be heard from.
The gunman took the rolled-up thousand dollars from the ground. He pocketed it, despite bloodstains on some of the outer bills. Then he pulled the empty magazine from his weapon and slapped a full clip back in. He pushed the weapon into his belt. He turned off the lantern. Using his feet, he pushed both bodies into the burial ditch.
He went to work with the shovel, enlarging the grave. His arms were strong and sure. It still took thirty minutes to create enough space so that the dead marine would have company.
No point leaving something conspicuous.
Plant a pair of stiffs two miles south of Texas and it would take a long time — if ever — for anyone to ask questions. Leave a display, particularly this display, and there could be trouble.
It would take another half hour on a hot night to put the dirt back down and spread it out. It did not have to be perfect. Just complete. No one who knew any better tampered with a grave in el campo de los ángelos.
But by two a.m. he was walking back up the hill alone, secure in the knowledge that the current President of the United States would soon be as dead as the three men he had left behind.
* * * * *
Friday, June 19, 2009, 6:13 a.m.
The car air conditioning emitted a low steady hum as United States Secret Service Agent Laura Chapman drove her ten-year-old Lexus to the White House. But as she drove, Laura studied her rear view mirror more intently than the average motorist.
The rear view: items behind a woman may be larger than she thinks.
The radio was set to an all news station – WTOP-AM in Washington. And there was plenty for her to latch on to, and not just that the record breaking heat and the usual summer weather had turned the city into a ninety-plus steam bath, with no end in sight.
But what else was new?
Well, the energetic new young pope, Gregory XVII, was planning a trip to the Philippines. There was also much discussion about the recent direction of politics in Eastern Europe. Poland, Lithuania and Slovenia had elected far-right governments in the last ten months, part of a political movement spreading its way westward. The shift in the political landscape was a popular response to the Islamic militancy that had spread across Europe in the last decade.
Some saw the trend as a resurgence of European nationalism; others called it Fascism. Whatever it was, it was there. Islamic mosques were now being defaced with swastikas and many ethnic Europeans thought that was a not a bad thing. Best to keep les hajis in their place, the wisdom went. But it wasn’t entirely a European problem. Since the ill-fated American venture in Iraq in 2003, the number of converts to Islam had increased dramatically in the United States, as well. Church attendance in America continued downward, while mosque attendance soared.
Half a planet away, China had annexed Taiwan in 2008 and was “repatriating and re-educating” dissident Taiwanese — most of whom were never seen again — while the world stood by. Meanwhile, pesky bands of guerillas — “pro-democracy Maoists” — had won a few firefights with government forces in Jiangxi province. The Chinese government was flooding army troops into the area to eradicate the problem of pesky “democratic Maoists” before their decadent philosophy caught hold elsewhere.
Domestically in the United States, the NDNAR — the National DNA Registry —-now had a database of two hundred fifty million names of living persons believed to be in the United States, much to the horror of civil libertarians. Almost everyone, in other words.
The NDNAR had been founded by secret executive order in the waning days of the Bush 43 administration and had withstood all legal challenges so far.
Elsewhere, and mildly more amusing, Leonid Brehznev’s grand-daughter, Tatiana, who had emigrated to America with her parents in the 1990’s, had been elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont. She had run as a conservative Republican.
Major league baseball had also returned to Washington, D.C. this year. Laura normally listened for the baseball scores. She had inherited a passion for the Boston Red Sox from her father, who had also been in the service of the government. But her focus was not on sports this morning. It was on her rear view mirror.
“Holy hell,” she said to herself, one nervous finger tapping on the steering wheel. “I mean, I know I’m sensing something.”
Now, granted: Laura Chapman could be a major head case. Often she would see things, people, ideas or patterns of behavior that maybe were not there. Or perhaps they were.
No one really knew because sometimes she saw important parallel things — a subtle but ominous connection or correlation of people and of otherwise-unrelated events — that other people did not notice. Or care to notice. Or just plain missed.
And, granted again, she had recently enjoyed several months of “time off for personal reasons,” meaning Med/Psych leave. But Laura had graduated from the care of Dr. Alex Feldman — one of the resident Secret Service shrinks — with as clean a bill of mental health as any veteran of the United States Secret Service could hope for. After all, most Secret Service employees who worked in the White House pressure cooker burned out after five or six years. Laura was the exception for having hung on for so long.
So she was normal. Or what passed for it in her line of work.
Hell. Perfection was only something that was aspired to, not something that was expected from individuals. Who in Washington did not have a few dents in his or her armor? Working for the United States Secret Service was a Catch-22 sort of thing: you had to be resolutely normal to be offered a position…and then a little bit “off” to accept it.
Thus, over the last six days, during the very hot early summer of 2009, Laura’s festering imagination had caused her to look over her shoulder more than a few times in a few days and come to a conclusion:
She was under surveillance.
The most plausible explanation: The Secret Service had honed in on her and that she was once again under the tight scrutiny of the people who employed her. She had mentioned her feelings to no one, but as she drove to work this morning, she was resentful.
But she had decided that she was going to let it play out for a few more days to see where it led. Invariably, these things led to a resolution, though often a thoroughly unexpected one.
Thoroughly unexpected, and sometimes equally unpleasant.
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