I LOVE CLIMBING. Give me a cliff face and a bag of climbing chalk and I’ll be whistling all the way to the top.
But I had no chalk today.
No cliff face either.
I was 200 feet up one of London’s famous residential towers, clinging to the weathered stone in a dove gray business suit.
For the last eight weeks, I’d been tailing a couple of people while waiting for a legend to strike. That legend was a Russian criminal mastermind known as Ivan the Ghost, a man so skilled in the art of invisibility, his very existence was in doubt.
The CIA’s new director had learned that Ivan was planning to rig the upcoming London mayoral election by forcing the leading candidate to withdraw. Director Rider was eager to exploit this rare intelligence coup to score political points and eliminate Ivan. Permanently and covertly. That was where I came in, as a member of the CIA’s Special Operations Group.
Ivan didn’t use guns or gangsters, and he never left a trail or trace. He concocted elaborate schemes — traps that caught his victims unaware and kept them silent. Creative coercions and invisible operations were his trademarks, his sources of pride and fame.
We expected Ivan to strike at the mayoral candidate through one of two relatives, either his daughter Emily, or his brother Evan. But that was just a guess. Still, we were thrilled that for once, for the first time, we just might be one step ahead of The Ghost.
“Have you got eyes on him yet?” Oscar asked.
Oscar Pincus, my control back at Langley, was sporadically monitoring the situation via my earpiece. Oscar had just joined the Agency. A pet placed in a plum role by a new director more concerned with influence than competence.
Oscar and I had both become excited when our electronic surveillance picked up Evan lying to his office manager about an appointment we knew he didn’t have. Our hearts really started racing when he slipped away to an apartment on the nineteenth floor of the luxury residence to which I now clung. Our hope and expectation was that his clandestine meeting was part of a cleverly construed trap arranged by Ivan. “I made it up to nineteen. Now I just have to climb over to unit B.”
“So that’s a no. Ivan’s finally about to strike, and we’re blind.”
I didn’t reply. I didn’t have time for Oscar right now. My current position was more than physically precarious. The British government didn’t know I was here. In fact, I’d be screwed if they found out. Indoctrination into the SOG came with the warning that the US government will disavow agents to avoid embarrassment.
What a term.
It’s the grown-up equivalent to shrugging. But then that’s politics, which resembles espionage, in that it revolves around lies. The difference, incidentally, is that spies don’t smile while lying.