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Triple Threat

Jeffery Deaver

  Begin Reading

  A Preview of The Kill Room

  Also by Jeffery Deaver

  Table of Contents


  Copyright Page

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  They were just about to see the octopus when she received a text alerting her that two hundred people were going to die in two hours.

  Kathryn Dance rarely received texts marked with exclamation points--the law enforcement community tended not to punctuate with emotion--so she read it immediately. Then called her office, via speed dial three.

  "Boss," the young man's voice spilled from her iPhone.

  "Details, TJ?"

  Over their heads:

  "Will the ticket holders for the one-thirty exhibition make their way inside, please."

  "Mom!" the little girl's voice was urgent. "That's us."

  "Hold on a second, honey." Then into the phone: "Go on."

  TJ Scanlon said, "Sorry, Boss, this's bad. On the wire from up north."


  "Let me talk, Mags."

  "Long story short, Alameda was monitoring this domestic separatist outfit, planning an attack up there."

  "I know. Brothers of Liberty, based in Oakland, White supremacists, antigovernment. Osmond Carter, their leader, was arrested last week and they threatened retaliation if he's not released."

  "You knew that?"

  "You read the statewide dailies, TJ?"

  "Mean to."

  "... the Monterey Bay Aquarium is pleased to host the largest specimen of Enteroctopus dofleini on exhibit in the Northern California area, weighing in at 121 pounds! We know you're going to enjoy viewing our visiting guest in his specially created habitat."

  "Okay. What's the story?" Dance persisted into the phone as she and her children edged closer to the exhibit hall. They'd waited forty-five minutes. Who would have thought octopuses, octopi would be such a big draw?

  TJ said, "Everybody believed they were going to hit somewhere up there, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Fran, but maybe there was too much heat. Oakland PD had a CI inside the group and he said two of their people came down here, set up something. And--"

  She interrupted. " 'Set up something.' What does that mean?"

  "An attack of some kind. He doesn't know what exactly. Maybe an IED, maybe chemical. Probably not bio but could be. But the number of victims is for sure, what I texted you. Two hundred plus or minus. That's confirmed. And whatever it is, it's up and running; the perps set it and they were headed back. The CI said 4:00 p.m. is when the attack goes down."

  Two and a half hours. A little less. Lord...

  "No idea of the victims, location?"

  TJ Scanlon offered, "None."

  "But you said they 'were' headed back."

  "Right, we caught a break. There's a chance we can nail 'em. The CI gave us the make of the car--a 2000 Taurus, light blue. CHP spotted one in Marina and went after it. The driver took off. Probably them. They lost the pursuit on surface roads. Everybody's searching the area. Bureau's coming in from the field office. Hold on, Boss. I'm getting something."

  Dance happened to glance up and see her reflection in the glass panel on the other side of which elegant and eerie sea horses floated with sublime, careless ease. Dance noted her own still gaze looking back at her, in a narrow, Cate Blanchett face, hair in a ponytail, held taut by a black and green scrunchy installed that morning by her ten-year-old daughter, currently champing beside her. Her mop-headed son Wes, twelve, was detached from mother and sister. He was less intrigued by cephalopods, however big, and more by an aloof fourteen-year-old in line, a girl who should have been a cheerleader if she wasn't.

  Dance was wearing jeans, a blue silk blouse and a tan quilted vest, comfortably warm. Sunny at the moment, the Monterey Peninsula could be quite fickle when it came to weather. Fog mostly.

  "Mom, they're calling us," Maggie said in her weegee voice, the high pitch that conveyed exasperation really well.

  "One minute, this's important."

  "First, it was a second. Now it's a minute. Jeez. One one-thousand, two one-thousand..."

  Wes was smiling toward, but not at, the cheerleader.

  The line inched forward, drawing them seductively closer to the Cephalopod of the Century.

  TJ came back on the line. "Boss, yep, it's them. The Taurus's registered to the Brothers of Liberty. CHP's in pursuit."



  Dance glanced around her at the dim, concrete and glass aquarium. It was holiday break--ten days before Christmas--and the place was packed. And there were dozens of tourist attractions like this in the area, not to mention movie theaters, churches and offices. Some schools were closed but others not. Was the plan to leave a bomb in, say, that trashcan out front? She said into the phone, "I'll be right in." Turning to the children, she grimaced at their disappointed faces. She had a theory--possibly unfounded--that her two children were more sensitive to disappointment than other kids their age because they were fatherless... and because Bill had died suddenly. There in the morning, and then never again. It was so very hard for her to say what she now had to: "Sorry, guys. It's a big problem at work."

  "Aw, Mom!" Maggie grumbled. "This is the last day! It's going to San Diego tomorrow." Wes, too, was disappointed, though part of this wasn't sea life but pretty cheerleaders.

  "Sorry, guys. Can't be helped. I'll make it up to you." Dance held the phone back to her ear and she said firmly to TJ, "And tell everybody: No shooting unless it's absolutely necessary. I don't want either of them killed."

  Which brought conversation around them in the octopus line to a complete stop. Everyone stared.

  Speaking to the wide-eyed blond, Wes said reassuringly, "It's okay. She says that a lot."

  # # #

  The venue for the party was good. The Monterey Bay Seaside Motel was near the water, north of the city. And what was especially nice about this place was that unlike a lot of banquet rooms this one had large windows opening onto a stretch of beach.

  Right now, Carol Messner noted, the beach had that December afternoon look to it: bleached, dusty, though the haze was mostly mist with a bit of fog thrown in. Not so focused, but, hey, a beach view beat a Highway 1 view any day, provided the sun held.

  "Hal," she said to her associate. "You think we need more tables over there? It looks empty."

  Carol, president of the local branch of the California Central Coast Bankers' Association, was a woman in her sixties, a grandmother several times over. Although her employer was one of the larger chain banks that had misbehaved a bit a few years ago, she'd had no part of mortgage-backed securities; she firmly believed banks did good. She wouldn't have been in the business if she didn't think that. She was living proof of the beneficence of the world of finance. Carol and her husband had comfortable retirement funds thanks to banks, her daughter and son-in-law had expanded their graphic arts business and made it successful thanks to banks, her grandsons would be going to Stanford and UC-Davis next fall thanks to student loans.

  The earth revolved around money, but that was a good thing--far better than guns and battleships--and she was happy and proud to be a part of the process. The diminutive, white-haired woman wouldn't have been in the business for forty-six years if she'd felt otherwise.

  Hal Reskin, her seco
nd in command at the CCCBA, was a heavyset man with a still face, a lawyer specializing in commercial paper and banking law. He eyed the corner she pointed at and agreed. "Asymmetrical," he said. "Can't have that."

  Carol tried not to smile. Hal took everything he did quite seriously and was a far better i-dotter than she. "Asymmetrical" would be a sin, possibly mortal.

  She walked up to the two motel employees who were organizing the room for the Christmas party, which would last from three to five today, and asked that they move several of the round ten-tops to cover the bald spot in the banquet-room floor. The men hefted the tables and rearranged them.

  Hal nodded.

  Carol said, "De-asymmetricalized."

  Her vice president laughed. Taking his tasks seriously didn't mean he was missing a sense of humor.

  Hal took the room in. "Looks good to me. Double check the sound system. Then we'll get the decorations up."

  "The PA?" she asked. "I tried it yesterday. It was fine." But being the i-dotting banker that she was, Carol walked to the stage and flicked on the PA system.


  A few more flicks of the off-on toggle.

  As if that would do any good.

  "This could be a problem."

  Carol followed the cord but it disappeared below the stage.

  "Maybe those workers," Hal said, peering at the microphones.


  "Those two guys who were here a half hour ago. Maybe before you got here?"

  "No, I didn't see anybody. Jose and Miguel?" she asked, nodding at the men on the motel staff, now setting up chairs.

  "No, other ones. They asked if this is where the banking meeting was going to be. I told them yes and they said they had to make some repairs under the stage. They were under there for a few minutes, then they left."

  She asked the two motel workers in the corner, "Did you hear that there was a problem with the sound system?"

  "No, ma'am. Maria, Guest Services, she handle everything with the microphones and all that. She said it was fine this morning. But she off now."

  "Where are those other workers?" Carol asked. After receiving blank stares, she explained what Hal had told her.

  "I don't know who they'd be, ma'am. We're the ones, Jose and me, who set up the rooms."

  Walking toward the access door to the stage, Hal said, "I'll take a look."

  "You know electronics?" she asked.

  "Are you kidding? I set up my grandson's Kinect with his X-Box. All by my little ole lonesome."

  Carol had no idea what he was talking about but he said it with such pride she had to smile. She held open the access door as he descended beneath the stage. "Good luck."

  Three minutes later the PA system came on with a resonant click through the speakers.

  Carol applauded.

  Hal appeared and dusted off his hands. "Those guys earlier, they knocked the cord loose when they were under there. We'll have to keep an eye out, they don't do it again. I think they'll be back."


  "Maybe. They left a tool box and some big bottles down there. Cleaner, I guess."

  "Okay. We'll keep an eye out." But the workmen were gone from Carol's mind. Decorations had to be set up, food had to be arranged. She wanted the room to be as nice as possible for the two hundred CCCBA members who'd been looking forward to the party for months.

  # # #

  A stroke of luck... and good policing.

  The CHP had collared the Brothers of Liberty perps.

  Kathryn Dance, who'd dropped the disgruntled children off with her parents in Carmel, was standing in the weedy parking lot of an outlet mall only six miles from the California Bureau of Investigation's Monterey Office, where she worked. Michael O'Neil now approached. He looked like a character from a John Steinbeck novel, maybe Doc in Cannery Row. Although the uniform of the MCSO was typical county sheriff's khaki, Chief Detective O'Neil usually dressed soft--today in sport coat and tan slacks and blue dress shirt, no tie. His hair was salt-and-pepper and his brown eyes, beneath lids that dipped low, moved slowly as he explained the pursuit and collar. His physique was solid and his arms very strong--though not from working out in a gym (that was amusing to him) but from muscling salmon and other delicacies into his boat in Monterey Bay every chance he got.

  O'Neil was taciturn by design and his face registered little emotion, but with Dance he could usually be counted on to crack a wry joke or banter.

  Not now. He was all business.

  A fellow CBI agent, massive shaved-headed Albert Stemple stalked up and O'Neil explained to him and Dance how the perps had been caught.

  The fastest way out of the area was on busy Highway 1 north, to 156, then to 101, which would take the suspected terrorists directly back to their nest in Oakland. That route was where the bulk of the searchers had been concentrating--without any success.

  But an inventive young Highway Patrol officer had asked himself how would he leave the area, if he knew his mission was compromised. He decided the smartest approach would be to take neighborhood and single-lane roads all the way to Highway 5, several hours away. And so he concentrated on small avenues like Jacks and Oil Well and--this was the luck part--he spotted the perps near this strip mall, which was close to Highway 68, the Monterey-Salinas Highway.

  The trooper had called in backup then lit 'em up.

  After a twenty-minute high-speed pursuit, the perps skidded into the mall, sped around back and vanished, but the trooper decided they were trying a feint. He didn't head in the same direction they were; instead, he squealed to a stop and waited beside a Tires Plus operation.

  After five excessively tense minutes, the Brothers of Liberty had apparently decided they'd misled the pursuit and sped out the way they'd come in, only to find the trooper had anticipated them. He floored the cruiser, equipped with ram bars, and totaled the Taurus. The perps bailed.

  The trooper tackled and hogtied one. The other galloped toward a warehouse area three or four hundred yards away, just as backup arrived. There was a brief exchange of gunfire and the second perp, wounded, was collared, too. Several CHP officers and a colleague of Dance's at the CBI, TJ Scanlon, were at that scene.

  Now, at the outlet mall, the perp who'd been tackled, one Wayne Keplar, regarded Dance, Stemple and O'Neil and the growing entourage of law enforcers.

  "Nice day for an event," Keplar said. He was a lean man, skinny, you could say. Parentheses of creases surrounded his mouth and his dark, narrow-set eyes hid beneath a severely straight fringe of black hair. A hook nose. Long arms, big hands, but he didn't appear particularly strong.

  Albert Stemple, whose every muscle seemed to be massive, stood nearby and eyed the perp carefully, ready to step on the bug if need be. O'Neil took a radio call. He stepped away.

  Keplar repeated, "Event. Event... Could describe a game, you know." He spoke in an oddly high voice, which Dance found irritating. Probably not the tone, more the smirk with which the words were delivered. "Or could be a tragedy. Like they'd call an earthquake or a nuclear meltdown an 'event.' The press, I mean. They love words like that."

  O'Neil motioned Dance aside. "That was Oakland PD. The CI's reporting that Keplar's pretty senior in the Brothers of Liberty. The other guy--the wounded one..." He nodded toward the warehouses. "Gabe Paulson, he's technical. At least has some schooling in engineering. If it's a bomb, he's probably the one set it up."

  "They think that's what it is?"

  "No intelligence about the means," O'Neil explained. "On their website they've talked about doing anything and everything to make their point. Bio, chemical, snipers, even hooking up with some Islamic extremist group and doing a quote 'joint venture.' "

  Dance's mouth tightened. "We supply the explosives, you supply the suicide bomber?"

  "That pretty much describes it."

  Her eyes took in Keplar, sitting on the curb, and she noted that he was relaxed, even jovial. Dance, whose position with the CBI trumped the other law enforcers
, approached him and regarded the lean man calmly. "We understand you're planning an attack of some sort--"

  "Event," he reminded.

  "--event, then, in two and a half hours. Is that true?"

  " 'Deed it is."

  "Well, right now, the only crimes you'll be charged with are traffic. At the worst, we could get you for conspiracy and attempt, several different counts. If that event occurs and people lose their lives--"

  "The charges'll be a lot more serious," he said jovially. "Let me ask you--what's your name?"

  "Agent Dance. CBI." She proffered her ID.

  He smacked his lips. As irritating as his weasely voice. "Agent Dance, of the CBI, let me ask you, don't you think we have a few too many laws in this country? My goodness, Moses gave us ten. Things seemed to work pretty well back then and now we've got Washington and Sacramento telling us what to do, what not to do. Every little detail. Honestly! They don't have faith in our good, smart selves."

  "Mr. Keplar--"

  "Call me 'Wayne,' please." He looked her over appraisingly. Which cut of meat looks good today. "I'll call you Kathryn."

  She noted that he'd memorized her name from the perusal of the ID. While Dance, as an attractive woman, was frequently undressed in the imaginations of the suspects she interviewed, Keplar's gaze suggested he was pitying her, as if she were afflicted with a disease. In her case, she guessed, the disease was the tumor of government and racial tolerance.

  Dance noted the impervious smile on his face, his air of.... what? Yes, almost triumph. He didn't appear at all concerned he'd been arrested.

  Glancing at her watch: 1:37.

  Dance stepped away to take a call from TJ Scanlon, updating her on the status of Gabe Paulson, the other perp. She was talking to him when O'Neil tapped her shoulder. She followed his gaze.

  Three black SUVs, dusty and dinged but imposing, sped into the parking lot and squealed to a halt, red and blue lights flashing. A half dozen men in suits climbed out, two others in tactical gear.

  The largest of the men who were Brooks Brothers-clad--six two and two hundred pounds--brushed his thick graying hair back and strode forward.

  "Michael, Kathryn."

  "Hi, Steve."

  Stephen Nichols was the head of the local field office of the FBI. He'd worked with Dance's husband, Bill Swenson, a bureau agent until his death. She'd met Nichols once or twice. He was a competent agent but ambitious in a locale where ambition didn't do you much good. He should have been in Houston or Atlanta, where he could free-style his way a bit further.