Jólabókaflód first caught my eye while I was scrolling through Pinterest. I found this gem all about the Icelandic tradition translating to “flood of books,” and my brain started whirring about a thousand miles a minute dreaming of my own celebration of this tradition. The tradition started in 1944 when paper was one of the few […]
A top secret F117 aircraft crashes into the Nevada desert. The Nighthawk is the most advanced fighting machine in the world and the Soviets will do anything to get their hands on its secrets.
In East Berlin, a mysterious figure contacts the CIA with an incredible offer—invaluable details of his government’s espionage plans in return for asylum.
It’s an offer they can’t pass up…if it’s genuine, but the risks are too great to blindly stumble into a deal. With the East German secret police closing in, someone will have to go to behind the Berlin Wall to investigate the potential defector. It’s a job Deputy Director James Greer can only trust to one man--Jack Ryan.
Ryan is a former Marine and a brilliant CIA analyst who’s been the architect of some of the CIA’s biggest coups but this time he’s in enemy territory with a professional assassin on his tail. Can he get the right answers before the Cold War turns into a Red Winter?
About the Author
A native of Texas, Marc Cameron spent almost thirty years in law enforcement. He served as a uniformed police officer, mounted (horse patrol) officer, SWAT officer, and a U.S. Marshal. Cameron is conversant in Japanese, and travels extensively researching his New York Times-bestselling Jericho Quinn novels. Cameron's books have been nominated for both the Barry Award and the Thriller Award.
Read an Excerpt
The McDonald's off Clayallee seemed an unlikely place for espionage. One might as well attempt to defect at Woolworths.
West Berlin, guarded by twelve thousand Allied troops and surrounded by half a million soldiers of the Warsaw Pact? A defection there would make sense. The dark and snowy hollows of Grunewald Forest, six miles from the Wall and a stone's throw from the Berlin Brigade headquarters? Certainly.
Twenty-nine and single, with a degree in public policy from the University of Maryland, Ruby Keller was a ground-floor Foreign Service officer. She was a newbie to the State Department, handling visa applications, lost passports, and any other piddling issue that confronted U.S. citizens visiting West Berlin. She never admitted it during the daily calls to her mother, but an inordinate amount of her workday was spent getting coffee for all the good old boys in this isolated outpost of the State Department.
Everyone told her she'd be under the microscope, watched by all kinds of alphabet-soup agencies, Russians trying to get her to spy, Americans making sure she didn't. Crazy stuff for an Indiana farm girl. The Clayallee McDonald's (the first restaurant in Germany with a drive-through window) seemed safe, like home, laughably far from all the international intrigue.
Keller stomped her feet when she came in from the cold and shook the snow off her jacket. It was late, after ten, but her internal clock was still jiggered toward the time in Washington, D.C., where she'd attended eighteen months of training and her body thought it was about time to eat dinner.
She'd spent the last fifteen minutes walking from her apartment near the diplomatic mission and had to squint under the stark glare of phosphorescent lighting. It was hard to believe she was still in Germany. The whole place could have been teleported directly from her hometown of Evansville. She ordered a Hamburger Royal (a Quarter Pounder, but that didn't translate into the metric system) and fries. The shake machine was broken.
Ruby was accustomed to chilly winters and had contemplated eating outside during her walk over, but it turned out to be a little too cold for that much adventure. Instead, she found a table by the window and nibbled on her sandwich-just like the ones at home-and people-watched.
Dinner rush was well past, but Europeans eat late-and GIs ate all the time. The kids behind the counter spoke English, as did ninety percent of the customers-most of whom were soldiers or civilian employees of the British or U.S. military. Ruby spoke German, very well in fact, but had hoped to be able to practice a lot more. The vast majority of Germans she'd met since her arrival spoke English. They just gave her a sort of blank stare if she even tried to Deutsch sprechen. With all the chatter among the patrons about new American movies and V-8 hotrods it was easy to forget they were sitting smack in the heart of communist Germany.
State Department Diplomatic Security agents had warned her before she left Washington. Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung-HVA, the counterintelligence operatives of the dreaded Stasi-assumed every single person at Mission Berlin was a spy. The CIA did nothing to dissuade the East Germans of this notion since it caused them to waste manpower. From what Keller had read, that mattered little. The Stasi enlisted pretty much everyone in the country to their cause, giving them an almost unlimited supply of personnel to spy-mostly on one another.
Surveillance was a foregone conclusion. It was prudent to assume every room and telephone outside the embassy was bugged-if not by HVA, then by West German intelligence-BND. A sheltered Indiana orchestra kid, Ruby found the whole thing fascinating.
People called what they were living in a Cold War, and, for the most part, that was right, but when it boiled over, it did so in a very big way. Tensions between East and West were at their worst since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Every month, that knot of war that Khrushchev warned Kennedy about pulled tighter and tighter until it seemed there would be no untying it without swords. Pershing II missiles bristling all over Europe, American overflights of disputed islands, not to mention the President's Strategic Defense Initiative, all had the Soviets feeling twitchy and worried about their future. The rubles that had been used to prop up satellite states were repurposed for missiles meant to counter the capitalist threat of the Main Enemy-the United States. That left East Germany with a dwindling treasury and few resources to replace the missing Soviet assistance. Everyone was on edge.
Two years earlier, a Sukhoi Su-15 fighter had shot down a KAL civilian airliner when it inadvertently veered into Soviet airspace on its way to Seoul from Anchorage, Alaska-murdering 269 people. Keller kept the Life magazine photograph of the victims' shoes that had washed ashore as a reminder of Russian brutality. Just months before, Soviet troops opened fire on a U.S. Army soldier for taking photos of a military installation near Potsdam, killing him. Both sides ran recon missions. In the East, it could be a capital offense.
Ruby's mother was horrified that her little girl had decided to venture into what the nightly news frequently referred to as Ground Zero. But for Ruby, that was the flame that drew her close.
The State Department travel office had flown her into Bonn for her initial briefing, then she'd taken the train across the East German countryside to reach Berlin. For the most part, the journey had been at night, but she'd been too excited to sleep. Ruby Keller, midwestern violin player, found herself living the stuff of spy novels, of impossible missions. A terrifyingly adventurous place with narrow, smoke-filled railcars and curt policemen who were apparently issued scowling frowns with their daily dose of communism.
The uniformed TraPo, or Transport Policeman, had looked the part in his high-crowned hat and blueberry uniform. He'd dashed her preconceived notions when he checked her diplomatic passport and refunded the twenty-five deutsche marks she'd originally paid to transit the GDR. Diplomats, he explained with an easy smile, were exempt from the fee.
Night had given way to morning and curtains of smudgy haze from East Germany's ubiquitous brown coal. This was, she'd been warned, the smell of the place-lignite and rot. You could get away from it in Bonn or the countryside of West Germany, but here in Berlin, surrounded on all sides, the abject desperation of the East assaulted the Wall like siege warfare-and the smell drifted across.
The McDonald's door opened, startling Ruby out of her thoughts with a gust of frigid air and a chattering group of American servicemen. She finished her sandwich and stood, pulling her purse over her shoulder. It was going to feel amazing to snuggle up in her government-issue quilts and read a book while the radiator ticked and rattled her to sleep.
Cold pinched her nose as she stepped from the bright lights of the restaurant and onto a quiet forested side street off the wider boulevard of Clayallee. Dozens of pedestrians, all of them heavily bundled against the cold, went to and from the surrounding military apartments, chatting, laughing. The Brits had such cool accents . . .
Keller had just passed beneath a streetlamp on her way to the main thoroughfare when she heard commotion in the parking lot to her left, a sudden hush, as if the crowd could not believe what they were seeing.
Something heavy slammed into her shoulder before she could turn and investigate. The pavement was slick with trampled snow and her feet shot out from under her, planting her flat on her back, all the wind driven from her lungs. She remembered reading somewhere that you were supposed to exhale sharply to start breathing again. Great in theory, but all she could manage was a wheezing croak.
The man who'd run into her had hit the ground beside her. He cursed in German and clambered to his feet-now with her purse in his hands.
Ruby rolled onto her side, feeling like a floundering seal on the ice. She tried to yell, managed a pitiful gasp, but that didn't matter. Several passersby saw what had happened and rushed the young man, bowling him over in a scrum of fists and feet. Attempting to steal a woman's purse in the middle of a bunch of homesick soldiers was doomed to fail before it began. Civilians joined in as well, men, women, even a couple of teenage girls. Someone yelled to call the police. A baby-faced Army buck sergeant retrieved her purse from the miscreant and brought it to her. He smiled, the kind of smile that said he would have tipped his hat if he'd had one, and asked if she was okay as he helped her to her feet.
"Embarrassed, more than anything," she said, brushing the snow off her coat and checking herself for breaks. "Everything bends the way it's supposed to."
It was something her grandfather always said.
The mugger hadn't really had time to take anything from her purse, but Ruby stepped under the streetlight to check anyway. She paused when she saw what was inside. Looked up at the crowd in disbelief and then back to the purse.
This couldn't be right. It was her bag, but instead of stealing anything, the kid, or someone, had put something inside it. A brown paper bag with a folded piece of typing paper and a black eight-inch floppy.
Ruby whistled to get the sergeant's attention as he returned to the group holding the mugger to the ground. She held up the purse when he turned. "You took this directly off of him?"
The sergeant shook his head. "No, ma'am," he said. "I helped to pin him down. That lady . . ." He turned to look at the group standing over the downed mugger. "I don't see her anymore, but I'm pretty sure she was German. She'd already picked it up, I guess. She handed it to me and I gave it back to you."
"Thanks," Ruby said, staring into her open purse at the computer disk. The paper had an address in Chantilly, Virginia, and a hastily scrawled note that read: I wish to speak to someone in your Special Services. Instructions to proceed are on disk. You will find decryption code at Virginia location. Involve no one stationed in Germany.
Ruby closed the purse, squeezing the clasp until her knuckles hurt. She looked over her shoulder. Someone had to be watching her. And who was the lady who'd given the sergeant the purse? Why not just give it back herself?
Wanting to "speak to Special Services" was a kind of shorthand in the diplomatic world.
Whoever this was wanted to defect.
This was big. The CIA at USBER, probably Army Intelligence, a gob of people would want to talk to this mugger kid, find out who he was, and what he knew, and the woman, too, if they could find her.
A murmur ran through the crowd.
Someone said, "Stand back."
"Give him some room," said another.
It was dark and snowing and the crowd was so large now that from her vantage point, Keller could just make out her assailant's head. His wool hat had come off in the scuffle. Long hair splayed over the snow. Then one of the sergeant's friends who'd been stooped over the motionless figure stood up and edged away.
"Whoa! I think this guy's dead."
Dr. Cathy Ryan tossed her dressing gown on a paisley Queen Anne chair and fell back on her pillows, giving an exaggerated bounce against the mattress. "He's down and out and it's not quite ten p.m.!" She sighed. "It's a miracle."
On the other side of the bed, thirty-four-year-old Jack Ryan lowered an open folder to peer over the top of his light bedtime reading, a British Secret Intelligence Service study titled A Soviet View of the Threat Posed by American Pershing II Missiles Deployed in Europe. The document was marked Confidential rather than Secret. It had to be checked out from the office, and Ryan was allowed to bring it home to study as long as he secured it in the home safe MI6 had graciously provided.
A colder-than-usual London November nipped at the windows, promising a hell of a winter-but the bedroom was what Ryan called "Cathy-warm," meaning she could sleep in a light silk gown instead of one of the flannel grannie ones she wore if he turned down the heat.
Not the pajama type, Jack wore a white T-shirt and jogging shorts to bed, making it easier to roll out and throw on some sweats before lacing up his Nikes and braving the snowy streets around their home as soon as he got up in the morning. He was built like a runner, six one and trim, with a full head of dark hair that framed a longish face. Jack Ryan was also a doctor, though as his eight-year-old daughter often pointed out, "not the useful kind." He held a Ph.D. in history.
Cathy sighed again, as if she wanted his attention, moving her feet just enough to draw his gaze downward toward her freshly manicured toes. Cathy was her own woman to be sure, but she generally yielded to Jack's preference that nail polish looked best when it was a color that would look good on a sports car. She'd gone with something called Misty Cinnamon this time-close enough to candy-apple red. Her gown had hiked up to mid-thigh, leaving gorgeous legs alluringly exposed.
He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and knelt it to open the safe so he could put away the folder.
Cathy chuckled. "I knew I married a rule-keeper . . . but . . ."
He jumped back onto the bed with an exaggerated bounce, scooting closer.
"Sorry," he said. "I should have come in and helped with the hellion. I got carried away reading about this Soviet general secretary . . ."
"That's fine," Cathy said. "Honestly."
"How about Sally?" Ryan asked after their daughter.
"She's still out." Cathy nestled against her pillow with a long yawn. "Surrounded by stacks of books." She yawned again, fluttered her eyes. "I'm glad we named that boy Jack Junior. He's got my heart, like his father, but he can also drive me crazy-"
"Like his father?"
"You got that right, mister," she said. "Did you know he's already got a girlfriend? Can you imagine? Four years old."
Ryan grinned. "Who's the lucky girl?"
"Little Maeve Norwood."
"Daughter of the Right Honorable Member of Parliament Warren James Norwood?" Ryan feigned a British accent. "Good fellow, that one. A fine family. I heartily approve of the arrangement."