Hells corner, p.30
Part #5 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci
“According to Annabelle, Friedman’s office is up the stairs and at the rear,” she said as she rubbed her thigh.
An hour later they stood facing each other, the failure evident on their features.
Stone perched on the edge of Friedman’s desk and looked around. They had gone through all the paper files, but Stone figured many things would be kept on the computers. But the system was password-protected, and while they had tried a few, nothing worked.
“Any brilliant ideas?” asked Chapman.
“No. We should’ve had Harry come with us. He probably could’ve gotten into the computer.”
“We should probably get out of here.”
They moved back down the stairs. Stone saw it first, out the window. He rushed to the keypad and armed the system and then pulled Chapman into an interior office on the first floor of the suite.
A few moments later the door opened and the security system’s beep went off. Marisa Friedman hit the appropriate keys and the beeping stopped. She shut the door behind her and climbed the stairs.
Stone edged open the door and peered out, Chapman at his shoulder.
“Do we leave now while she’s occupied?” said Chapman.
“No, we wait.”
Twenty minutes passed, then he and Chapman heard steps coming back down and Stone eased the door shut. They listened to the security system being set and a few seconds later the door closed.
Stone counted to five and then looked out.
“It’s clear. Let’s go.”
They managed to open and close the door during the delay of the security system arming.
“There!” said Chapman, pointing to the north where Friedman was just about to turn the corner at the Decatur House.
“Oliver? Agent Chapman?”
They turned to see Alex Ford standing there watching them. “What are you two doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” blurted out Chapman.
“I’m on perimeter security duty, if it’s any of your business,” retorted Alex. He looked at Stone. “Oliver?”
“I’m sorry, Alex, no time. I’ll explain later.”
Stone grabbed Chapman’s arm and they hurried off, leaving Alex to gape after them.
“She’s getting in a cab,” said Chapman a minute or so later.
“Not a problem.” Stone hailed another cab that passed by a few moments later. They climbed in and Stone showed his badge and instructed the driver to follow the other vehicle.
The cab turned down one street and then another, steadily making its way west.
“This is looking familiar,” said Stone.
“What?” asked Chapman.
“George Washington University. She could have walked. It’s a nice evening.”
“Do you know where she’s going?” asked Chapman.
“I believe so, yes.”
“So spill it,” Chapman said in exasperation.
The cab pulled to the curb. They watched as Friedman got out.
“She’s going to see Fuat Turkekul,” said Stone.
“How do you know that?” demanded Chapman.
“Because that’s the same building where I met with him.”
“Well, let’s go see what they’re up to.”
At that instant an SUV screeched in front of their cab and two more behind. Before they could react, they were surrounded by armed men. Stone and Chapman were pulled from the vehicle and pushed into one of the SUVs, and it started moving before they could even catch their breath. As Stone looked back he saw Marisa Friedman staring after them. She’d obviously played her part to perfection in setting him up. And yet her features didn’t speak of triumph. She actually looked a little sad, Stone thought.
Twenty minutes later they were hurried into a building that looked abandoned. Up dimly lit steps to a door. Through the doorway and then another. They were pushed into seats and the men with guns left, shutting the door behind them. The lights came on and someone moved at the front of the room.
Adelphia sat there, her hands in her lap.
Riley Weaver looked extremely upset.
Sir James McElroy simply seemed intrigued.
WEAVER SAID, “WHAT THE HELL are we going to do with you guys? You keep popping up like a really shitty penny.”
McElroy put his elbows on the table and made a steeple with his hands. “How did you get onto Marisa Friedman?”
Stone said, “She was really the only one left.”
“And you deduced where she was going?”
“To see Turkekul.”
McElroy glanced at Weaver and then at Adelphia.
Stone said to McElroy, “So this is why you wouldn’t answer my earlier question, after I found out about your connection with him?”
“You mean whether I was withholding anything else from you? In my defense, I came to this a bit late in the game, and the more we delved into it, the more tangled it became. I have to say that this is the most intense chess match of my career, Oliver. It really is. I hope I’m up to the challenge.”
Stone turned to Weaver. “And are you up to the challenge?”
Weaver flushed. “We’re doing the best we can under very difficult circumstances. One little misstep and we blow everything out of the water. That’s what you almost did tonight.”
“How did you get onto us?” asked Chapman.
“Easy. We followed Friedman and saw you following her.”
“Why follow your own agent?” asked Stone.
“Because she’s extremely valuable and we take care of our people.”
“I saw her looking at us when you snatched us. She didn’t seem surprised.”
“When we spotted you, we phoned her, filled her in.”
“So she didn’t know until then?” asked Stone.
“What’s it to you?” barked Weaver.
“So what is the real deal with Fuat Turkekul?” asked Chapman. “He’s not going after bin Laden, is he?”
“How long have you suspected him of being a traitor?” said Stone.
Weaver looked surprised, Chapman shocked, but McElroy nodded thoughtfully. “I thought you might work it out.”
“It took me long enough,” noted Stone. “Too long, in fact.”
“He came to us with much promise,” said McElroy. “So much promise, in fact, that Adelphia here, one of our best, was assigned to work with him before we transitioned him principally to Friedman’s handling.”
Adelphia nodded. “That was one of the reasons I had to go away, Oliver,” she said. “To work with Fuat.”
“On what exactly?” asked Chapman.
Weaver laughed ruefully. “He came and sold us a real bill of goods. First, he could take us to bin Laden. Then, we had a mole in our midst. And he would help us track it down.”
“But it turned out he was the mole?” said Stone.
“A Trojan horse, more like it,” noted McElroy. “He came to us in disguise, as it were. And now he has unleashed a virus amongst us.”
“A virus? How?” asked Chapman.
“We let him in the door,” lamented Weaver. “And he brought other elements with him. Unknown elements.”
McElroy added, “Our only recourse now is to let him think we trust him, are working with him and then follow it up to his other connections. Not the preferred way to go about it, but we have few options.”
“That’s why he wasn’t doing much?” said Stone.
Weaver nodded. “That’s right. Fuat takes everything very slowly. Wanted to move to D.C. Lot of prep time, build his network, and the next thing we know things are going to hell.”
“The incident in the park?” asked Chapman. “That’s him?”
“Undoubtedly,” said Weaver. “We think it was just a prelude to something much bigger.”
“And Friedman? What’s her role?” asked Stone.
“She’s one of our deep cover agents. A lobbyist and lawyer by day with a plethora of international clients, many of them fron
“How do you explain that connection? Lobbyist and academic?”
“Easily enough. Friedman represents several organizations in the Middle East that have relationships with Turkekul. Officially they are working on a number of initiatives to strengthen trade relations between Pakistan and the U.S.”
“And the phone call she made while in the park?”
“To another agent who provided her cover when the FBI made inquiries,” answered Weaver.
“When did you begin to suspect Turkekul?” asked Chapman.
McElroy fidgeted with his tie. “Far too late, of course. He was quite good. Friedman suspected something first, and we followed up on those suspicions and confirmed them. And she did so at great personal risk to herself I might add.”
“But you’re saying he doesn’t know you suspect him?” said Stone.
“He is too wily an operative not to suspect. But we have given him no reason to really suspect, if you understand me. We have given him rope. We have covered for him on several occasions, as you are well aware.”
“What do you think his plan is?”
“Nanobot residue in a bomb?” said Weaver. “Scares the hell out of me, and it should you too. I know you talked with the president about something at Camp David. It was about that, wasn’t it?”
“Among other things. The president explained to me about the biological and chemical potential. But he didn’t really get into details. Can it also make the bomb more powerful, for example?”
McElroy said, “No, it’s still a traditional explosive. We believe it is simply a way to deliver biological and chemical weapons on a far more prodigious scale than ever possible before.”
“How can these nanobot things do that?” asked Chapman. “And keep in mind I basically failed science at university.”
McElroy nodded at Weaver. “I will leave the essentials to my colleague here.”
Weaver cleared his throat. “Nanobots are the next generation of nanorobotics. They occur at the molecular level and have a lot of potential uses, beneficial ones, including the delivery of drugs into the body. It’s thought that one day soon nanobots can be released into cancer patients and be programmed to attack and destroy cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed. The possibilities are endless, really.”
“And the biological weapon delivery systems?” asked Stone. “A terrorist can put anthrax in a bomb right now. So why does this nanotechnology angle make it more dangerous?”
“At the molecular level anything is possible, Stone,” said Weaver with a trace of irritation. “You can basically build something one atom at a time, outside the normal configurations.”
“Meaning the normal configurations that we have systems set up to detect,” said Stone.
“Point well taken, Oliver,” said McElroy. “That really is the entire heart of the matter. Detection. If they can change it so we can’t ferret it out, that gives the other side an enormous advantage over us. In fact, an insurmountable one.”
“The other side? Meaning the Russians?” said Stone.
“How about the Chinese?” said Chapman. “They have more money than anyone. And their science is not too shabby.”
“The Kashtan submachine gun. And talking a weird language,” Stone reminded her. “Points at Moscow, not Beijing.”
“And we have very good reason to believe that the Chinese are not involved in this,” said McElroy. “Principally because they don’t have to resort to such tactics to be a superpower. Economically they already are. These days it’s not necessarily how large your military is, but how big your bank account is, and the Chinese wallet is fatter than anyone’s. The Russians, on the other hand, are not in the same position.”
“And the incident in the park was a way of testing the delivery system?” asked Chapman.
“We believe so, yes,” said Weaver. “The nanobots were scattered everywhere. There were no bio-or chemical weapons grafted or grown onto them. We’ve confirmed that. At least the ones we know about. But if there had been? Catastrophic.”
Chapman said slowly, “So the nanobots are a way to actually grow or build bio-or chemical weapons, at a microscopic level and in an undetectable configuration? Load them onto a bomb and set them off?”
“That’s right,” said McElroy. “And if done properly, conventional security forces would be powerless to stop them. So we’re hoping that Fuat makes a mistake and leads us to whomever he’s working with. And soon. It is not enough to arrest him. We need the others. And he’s the only source we have to get there.”
“We’re trying to get Friedman to put some pressure on him. Hence her meeting with him tonight. A meeting you guys almost blew to hell,” Weaver pointed out.
Ignoring this, Stone said, “How did Turkekul get hooked up with the Russians?”
“In your meeting with him he told you that he lived for a time in Afghanistan?” said McElroy.
“The timing of him being there was interesting.”
“Let me guess. Late seventies, early eighties. When the Russians were trying to destroy the Afghan freedom fighters?”
“That’s right. Fuat I’m sure on the surface pretended to be on the side of the Afghan freedom fighters.”
“But he was in the Russians’ back pocket,” said Stone.
“Of course we think that now,” said Weaver. “When he first approached us we thought he was shooting straight. If we knew his loyalties were with Moscow he’d be in jail right now. But we didn’t know.”
“So our discovery of the Russian gun in Pennsylvania didn’t come as a surprise?” said Stone.
“No, it was simply more confirmation of what we already knew,” replied Weaver.
“But why have a practice run in the park of all places?” said Chapman. “It allowed us to analyze the debris and discover these nano-things.”
“I believe it shows they have great confidence in their technology,” answered Weaver. “Arrogant bastards. The Cold War never really ended.”
“That may be their undoing, of course. At least we can hope that is the case,” noted McElroy. “At least it provided us with an opportunity to turn the tables.”
“So you think Turkekul was there to detonate the bomb remotely?” asked Stone. “After he left the park?”
“He was scheduled to meet with Friedman, that’s why they left together,” said McElroy.
“Which would have been nice to know before,” said Stone.
“Need to know, Stone,” growled Weaver.
“Right,” Stone snapped back. “I’m getting really tired of hearing that justification for keeping us in the dark.”
McElroy said, “To answer your question, Oliver, yes, we do think he remotely detonated it. The excuse of meeting with Friedman there was the perfect cover. She was very surprised when he didn’t initiate contact while she was sitting on the bench.”
Weaver focused on Stone and Chapman. “And what we don’t need are you two screwing all of this up.”
“If you had told us about it, we wouldn’t have come anywhere near it,” Stone said reasonably.
“You didn’t require reading in, until now. And I’m not thrilled about it. So from now on keep clear. Got it?”
McElroy rose, supporting himself with the tabletop. “I think they do indeed get it, Director.”
“One more question,” said Stone. The two men looked at him expectantly. “The president knows about the nanobot angle. But does he know that you suspect Turkekul is a traitor?”
McElroy and Weaver exchanged a quick glance.
“Are you keeping it from the president because you let a spy this
Hells Corner by David Baldacci / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes