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The Brethren

By Travis Jackson,2014-11-04 20:33
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Amazon.com ReviewJohn Grisham's novels have all been so systematically successful that it is easy to forget he is just one man toiling away silently with a pen, experimenting and improving with each book. While not as gifted a prose stylist as Scott Turow, Grisham is among the best plotters in the thriller business, and he infuses his books with a moral valence and creative vision that set them apart from their peers.The Brethren is in many respects his most daring book yet. The novel grows from two separate subplots. In the first, three imprisoned ex-judges (the "brethren" in the title), frustrated by their loss of power and influence, concoct an elaborate blackmail scheme that preys on wealthy, closeted gay men. The second story traces the rise of presidential Published by Delta on 2005/12/27

    The Brethren

    The Brethren THE ? ? ? ? THE BRETHREN ? ? BY ? ?

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    JOHN GRISHAM

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    ISLAND BOOKS

    Published by Dell Publishing a division of Random House,

    ?Inc. 1540 Broadway NewYork, NewYork 10036

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    Copyright ? 2000 by Belfry Holdings, Inc.

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    ISBN: 0-440-29580-7

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    The Brethren

    ONE

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    For the weekly docket the court jester jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeplyfaded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth shower shoes with no socks. He wasn't the onlyinmate who went about his daily business in his pajamas, but no one else dared wear lavendershoes. His name was T Karl, and he'd once owned banks in Boston.

    The pajamas and shoes weren't nearly as troubling as the wig. It parted at the middle androlled in layers downward, over his ears, with tight curls coiling off into three directions,and fell heavily onto his shoulders. It was a bright gray, almost white, and fashioned afterthe Old English magistrate's wigs from centuries earlier. A friend on the outside had found itat a secondhand costume store in Manhattan, in the Village.

    T Karl wore it to court with great pride, and, odd as it was, it had, with time, become part ofthe show. The other inmates kept their distance from T Karl anyway, wig or not.

    He stood behind his flimsy folding table in the prison cafeteria, tapped a plastic mallet thatserved as a gavel, cleared his squeaky throat, and announced with great dignity: “Hear ye,hear ye, hear ye. The Inferior Federal Court of North Florida is now in session. Please rise.”

    No one moved, or at least no one made an effort to stand. Thirty inmates lounged in variousstages of repose in plastic cafeteria chairs, some looking at the court jester, some chatting

away as if he didn't exist.

    T Karl continued: “Let all ye who search for justice draw nigh and get screwed.”

    No laughs. It had been funny months earlier when T Karl first tried it. Now it was just anotherpart of the show. He sat down carefully, making sure the rows of curls bouncing upon hisshoulders were given ample chance to be seen, then he opened a thick red leather book whichserved as the official record for the court. He took his work very seriously.

    Three men entered the room from the kitchen.Two of them wore shoes. One was eating a saltine.The one with no shoes was also bare-legged up to his knees, so that below his robe his spindlylegs could be seen. They were smooth and hairless and very brown from the sun.A large tattoohad been applied to his left calf. He was from California.

    All three wore old church robes from the same choir, pale green with gold trim. They came fromthe same store as T Karl's wig, and had been presented by him as gifts at Christmas.That washow he kept his job as the court's official clerk.

    There were a few hisses and jeers from the spectators as the judges ambled across the tilefloor in full regalia, their robes flowing. They took their places behind a long folding table,near T Karl but not too near,and faced the weekly gathering. The short round one sat in themiddle. Joe Roy Spicer was his name, and by default he acted as the Chief Justice of thetribunal. In his previous life, judge Spicer had been a justice of the Peace in Mississippi,duly elected by the people of his little county, and sent away when the feds caught himskimming bingo profits from a Shriners club.

    “Please be seated;” he said. Not a soul was standing.

    The judges adjusted their folding chairs and shook their robes until they fell properly aroundthem. The assistant warden stood to the side, ignored by the inmates. A guard in uniform waswith him. The Brethren met once a week with the prison's approval. They heard cases, mediateddisputes, settled little fights among the boys, and had generally proved to be a stabilizingfactor amid the population.

    Spicer looked at the docket, a neat hand-printed sheet of paper prepared by T Karl, and said,“Court shall come to order.”

    To his right was the Californian, the Honorable Finn Yarber, age sixty, in for two years nowwith five to go for income tax evasion. A vendetta, he still maintained to anyone who wouldlisten. A crusade by a Republican governor who'd managed to rally the voters in a recall driveto remove Chief Justice Yarber from the California Supreme Court. The rallying point had beenYarber's opposition to the death penalty, and his high-handedness in delaying every execution.Folks wanted blood, Yarber prevented it, the Republicans whipped up a frenzy, and the recallwas a smashing success. They pitched him onto the street, where he floundered for a while untilthe IRS began asking questions. Educated at Stanford, indicted in Sacramento, sentenced in SanFrancisco, and now serving his time at a federal prison in Florida.

    In for two years and Finn was still struggling with the bitterness. He still believed in hisown innocence, still dreamed of conquering his enemies. But the dreams were fading. He spent alot of time on the jogging track, alone, baking in the sun and -dreaming of another life.

    “First case is Schneiter versus Magruder,” Spicer announced as if a major antitrust trial wasabout to start.

    “Schneiter's not here;” Beech said.

    “Where is he?”

    “Infirmary. Gallstones again. I just left there.”

    Hatlee Beech was the third member of the tribunal. He spent most of his time in the infirmarybecause of hemorrhoids, or headaches, or swollen glands. Beech was fifty-six, the youngest ofthe three, and with nine years to go he was convinced he would die in prison. He'd been afederal judge in East Texas, a hardfisted conservative who knew lots of Scripture and liked toquote it during trials. He'd had political ambitions, a nice family, money from his wife's

    family's oil trust. He also had a drinking problem which no one knew about until he ran overtwo hikers in Yellowstone. Both died. The car Beech had been driving was owned by a young ladyhe was not married to. She was found naked in the front seat, too drunk to walk.

    They sent him away for twelve years.

    Jo Roy Spicer, Finn Yarber, Hatlee Beech. The Inferior Court of North Florida, better known asthe Brethren around Trumble, a minimum security federal prison with no fences, no guard towers,no razor wire. If you had to do time, do it the federal way, and do it in a place like Trumble.

    “Should we default him?” Spicer asked Beech.

    “No, just continue it until next week.”

    “Okay. I don't suppose he's going anywhere.”

    “I object to a continuance,” Magruder said from the crowd.

    “Too bad,” said Spicer. “It's continued until next week.”

    Magruder was on his feet. “That's the third time it's been continued. I'm the plaintiff: Isued him. He runs to the infirmary every time we have a docket.”

    “What're ya'll fightin over?” Spicer asked.

    “Seventeen dollars and two magazines;” T Karl said helpfully.

    “That much, huh?” Spicer said. Seventeen dollars would get you sued every time at Trumble.

    ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Finn Yarberwas already bored. With one hand he stroked his shaggy gray beard, and with the other he rakedhis long fingernails across the table. Then he popped his toes, loudly, crunching them into thefloor in an efficient little workout that grated on the nerves.In his other life, when he hadtitles-Mr. Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court he often presided while wearingleather clogs, no socks, so that he could exercise his toes during the dull oral arguments.“Continue it;” he said.

    “Justice delayed is justice denied,” Magruder said solemnly.

    “Now that's original;” said Beech. “One more week, then we'll default Schneiter.”

    “So ordered;” Spicer said, with great finality. T Karl made a note in the docket book.Magruder sat down in a huff. He'd filed his complaint in the Inferior Court by handing to T.Karl a one-page summary of his allegations against Schneiter. Only one page. The Brethrendidn't tolerate paperwork. One page and you got your day in court. Schneiter had replied withsix pages of invective, all of which had been summarily stricken by T Karl.

    The rules were kept simple. Short pleadings. No discovery. Quick justice. Decisions on thespot, and all decisions were binding if both parties submitted to the jurisdiction of thecourt. No appeals; there was nowhere to take one. Witnesses were not given an oath to tell thetruth. Lying was completely expected. It was, after all, a prison.

    “What's next?” Spicer asked.

    T Karl hesitated for a second, then said, "It's the Whiz case:' .

    Things were suddenly still for a moment, then the plastic cafeteria chairs rattled forward inone noisy offensive. The inmates scooted and shuffied until T Karl announced, “That's closeenough! ”They were less than twenty feet away from the bench.

    “We shall maintain decorum!” he proclaimed.

    The Whiz matter had been festering for months at Trumble. Whiz was a young Wall Street crookwho'd bilked some rich clients. Four million dollars had never been accounted for, and legendheld that Whiz had stashed it offshore and managed it from inside Trumble. He had six yearsleft, and would be almost forty when paroled. It was widely assumed that he was quietly servinghis time until one glorious day when he would walk free, still a young man, and fly off in aprivate jet to a beach where-the money was waiting.

    Inside, the legend only grew, partly because Whiz kept to himself and spent long hours everyday studying financials and technical charts and reading impenetrable economic publications.Even the warden had tried to cajole him into sharing market tips.

    An ex lawyer known as Rook had somehow got next to Whiz, and had somehow convinced him to sharea small morsel of advice with an investment club that met once a week in the prison chapel. Onbehalf of the club, Rook was now suing the Whiz for fraud.

    Rook took the witness chair, and began his narrative. The usual rules of procedure and evidencewere dispensed with so that the truth could be arrived at quickly, whatever form it might take.

    “So I go to the Whiz and I ask him what he thinks about ValueNow, a new online company I readabout in Forbes,” Rook explained. “It was about to go public, and I liked the idea behind thecompany. Whiz said he'd check it out for me. I heard nothing. So I went back to him and said,`Hey, Whiz, what about ValueNow?'And he said he thought it was a solid company and the stockwould go through the roof.”

    “I did not say that,” the Whiz inserted quickly. He was seated across the room, by himself,his arms folded over the chair in front.

    "Yes you did:'

    “I did not.”

    “Anyway, I go back to the club and tell them that Whiz is high on the deal, so we decide wewant to buy some stock in ValueNow. But little guys can't buy because the offering is closed. Igo back to Whiz over there and I say, Look, Whiz, you think you could pull some strings withyour buddies on Wall Street and get us a few shares of ValueNow? And Whiz said he thought hecould do that.”

    “That's a lie;” said Whiz.

    “Quiet;” said justice Spicer. “You'll get your chance.”

    “He's lying;” Whiz said, as if there was a rule against it.

    If Whiz had money, you'd never know it, at least not on the inside. His eight-by-twelve cellwas bare except for stacks of financial publications. No stereo, fan, books, cigarettes, noneof the usual assets acquired by almost everyone else. This only added to the legend. He wasconsidered a miser, a weird little man who saved every penny and was no doubt stashingeverything offshore.

    “Anyway;” Rook continued, “we decided to gamble by taking a big position inValueNow. Ourstrategy was to liquidate our holdings and consolidate.”

    “Consolidate?” asked justice Beech. Rook sounded like a portfolio manager who handledbillions.

    “Right, consolidate. We borrowed - all we could from friends and family, and had close to athousand bucks.”

    “A thousand bucks,” repeated justice Spicer. Not bad for an inside job. “Then whathappened?”

    “I told Whiz over there that we were ready to move. Could he get us the stock? This was on aTuesday. The offering was on a Friday. Whiz said no problem. Said he had a buddy at Goldman Suxor some such place that could take care of us.”

    “That's a lie; ” Whiz shot from across the room.

    “Anyway, on Wednesday I saw Whiz in the east yard, and I asked him about the stock. He said noproblem.”

    “That's a lie.”

    “I got a witness”

    “Who?” asked justice Spicer.

“Picasso.”

    Picasso was sitting behind Rook, as were the other six members of the investment club. Picassoreluctantly waved his hand.

    “Is that true?” Spicer asked.

    “Yep;” Picasso answered. “Rook asked about the stock. Whiz said he would get it. Noproblem.”

    Picasso testified in a lot of cases, and had been caught lying more than most inmates.

    “Continue,” Spicer said.

    “Anyway, Thursday I couldn't find Whiz anywhere. He was hiding from me.”

    “I was not.”

    “Friday, the stock goes public. It was offered at twenty a share, the price we could've boughtit for if Mr. Wall Street over there had done what he promised. It opened at sixty, spent mostof the day at eighty, then dosed at seventy. Our plans were to sell it as soon as possible. Wecould've bought fifty shares at twenty, sold them at eighty, and walked away from the deal withthree thousand dollars in profits.”

    Violence was very rare at Trumble. Three thousand dollars would not get you killed, but somebones might be broken. Whiz had been lucky so far. There'd been no ambush.

    “And you think the Whiz owes you these lost profits?” asked ex-Chief Justice FinnYarber, nowplucking his eyebrows.

    “Damned right we do. Look, what makes the deal stink even worse is that Whiz bought ValueNowfor himself.”

    “That's a damned lie,”Whiz said.

    “Language, please,” Justice Beech said. If you wanted to lose a case before the Brethren,just offend Beech with your language.

    The rumors that Whiz had bought the stock for himself had been started by Rook and his gang.There was no proof of it, but the story had proved irresistible and had been repeated by mostinmates so often that it was now established as fact. It fit so nicely.

    “Is that all?” Spicer asked Rook.

    Rook had other points he wanted to elaborate on,but the Brethren had no patience with windylitigants.

    Especially ex lawyers still reliving their gory days. There were at least five of them atTrumble, and they seemed to be on the docket all the time.

    “I guess so,” Rook said.

    “What do you have to say?” Spicer asked the Whiz.

    Whiz stood and took a few steps toward their table. He glared at his accusers, Rook and hisgang of losers. Then he addressed the court. “What's the burden of proof here?”

    Justice Spicer immediately lowered his eyes and waited for help. As a Justice of the Peace,he'd had no legal training. He'd never finished high school, then worked for twenty years inhis father's country store. That's where the votes came from. Spicer relied on common sense,which was often at odds with the law. Any questions dealing with legal theory would be handledby his two colleagues.

    “It's whatever we say it is;”Justice Beech said, relishing a debate with a stockbroker on thecourt's rules of procedure.

    “Clear and convincing proof?” asked the Whiz.

    "Could be, but not in this case:'

    “Beyond a reasonable doubt?”

“Probably not”

    “Preponderance of the evidence?”

    “Now you're getting dose.”

    “Then, they have no proof,” the Whiz said, waving his hands like a bad actor in a bad TVdrama.

    “Why don't you just tell us your side of the story?” said Beech.

    “I'd love to.ValueNow was a typical online offering, lots of hype, lots of red ink on thebooks. Sure Rook came to me, but by the time I could make my calls, the offering was dosed. Icalled a friend who told me you couldn't get near the stock. Even the big boys were shut out.”

    “Now, how does that happen?” asked JusticeYarber.

    The room was quiet. The Whiz was talking money, and everyone was listening.

    “Happens all the time in IPOs. That's initial public offerings.”

    “We know what an IPO is;” Beech said.

    Spicer certainly did not. Didn't have many of those back in rural Mississippi.

    The Whiz relaxed, just a little. He could dazzle them for a moment, win this nuisance of acase, then go back to his cave and ignore them.

    “The ValueNow IPO was handled by the investment banking firm of Bakin-Kline, a small outfit inSan Francisco. Five million shares were offered. BakinKline basically presold the stock to itspreferred customers and friends, so that most big investment firms never had a shot at thestock. Happens all the time.”

    The judges and the inmates, even the court jester, hung on every word.

    He continued. “It's silly to think that some disbarred yahoo sitting in prison, reading an oldcopy of Forbes, can somehow buy a thousand dollars' worth of ValueNow”

    And at that very moment it did indeed seem very silly. Rook fumed while his club members beganquietly blaming him.

    “Did you buy any of it?” asked Beech.

    “Of course not. I .couldn't get near it. And besides, most of the high-tech and onlinecompanies are built with funny money. I stay away from them.”

    “What do you prefer?” Beech asked quickly, his curiosity getting the better of him.

    “Value. The long haul. I'm in no hurry. Look, this is a bogus case brought by some boyslooking for an easy buck.” He waved toward Rook, who was sinking in his chair. The Whizsounded perfectly believable and legitimate.

    Rook's case was built on hearsay, speculation, and the corroboration of Picasso, a notoriousliar.

    “You got any witnesses?” Spicer asked.

    “I don't need any,” the Whiz said, and took his seat.

    Each of the three justices scribbled something on a slip of paper. Deliberations were quick,verdicts instantaneous. Yarber and Beech slid theirs to Spicer, who announced, “By a vote oftwo to one, we find for the defendant. Case dismissed. Who's next?”

    The vote was actually unanimous, but every verdict was officially two to one. That allowed eachof the three a little wiggle room if later confronted.

    But the Brethren were well regarded around Trumble. Their decisions were quick and as fair asthey could make them. In fact, they were remarkably accurate in light of the shaky testimonythey often heard. Spicer had presided over small cases for years, in the back of his family'scountry store. He could spot a liar at fifty feet. Beech andYarber had spent their careers incourtrooms, and had no tolerance for lengthy arguments and delays, the usual tactics.

“That's all today;' T. Karl reported. ”End of docket."

    “Very well. Court is adjourned until next week.”

    T. Karl jumped to his feet, his curls again vibrating across his shoulders, and declared,“Court's adjourned. All rise.”

    No one stood, no one moved as the Brethren left the room. Rook and his gang were huddled, nodoubt planning their next lawsuit. The Whiz left quickly

    The assistant warden and the guard eased away without being seen. The weekly docket was one ofthe better shows at Trumble.

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    The Brethren

    TWO

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    Though he'd served in Congress for fourteen years, Aaron Lake still drove his own car aroundWashington. He didn't need or want a chauffeur, or an aide, or a bodyguard. Sometimes an internwould ride with him and take notes, but for the most part Lake enjoyed the tranquillity ofsitting in D.C. traffic while listening to classical guitar on the stereo. Many of his friends,especially those who'd achieved the status of a Mr. Chairman or a Mr.Vice Chairman, had largercars with drivers. Some even had limos.

    Not Lake. It was a waste of time and money and privacy. If he ever sought higher office, hecertainly didn't want the baggage of a chauffeur wrapped around his neck. Besides, he enjoyedbeing alone. His office was a madhouse. He had fifteen people bouncing off the walls, answeringphones, opening files, serving the folks back in Arizona who'd sent him to Washington. Two moredid nothing but raise money. Three interns managed to further clog his narrow corridors andtake up more time than they deserved.

    He was single, a widower, with a quaint little town-house in Georgetown that he was very fondof. He lived quietly, occasionally stepping into the social scene that had attracted him andhis late wife in the early years.

    He followed the Beltway, the traffic slow and cautious because of a light snow. He was quicklycleared through CIA security at Langley, and was very pleased to see a preferred parking spacewaiting for him, along with two plainclothes security personnel.

    “Mr. Maynard is waiting;” one of them said gravely, opening his car door while the other tookhis briefcase. Power did have its perks.

    Lake had never met with the CIA director at Langley. They'd conferred twice on the Hill, yearsearlier, back when the poor guy could get around. Teddy Maynard was in a wheelchair and inconstant pain, and even senators got themselves driven out to Langley anytime he needed them.He'd called Lake a halfdozen times in fourteen years, but Maynard was a busy man. His light-lifting was usually handled by associates.

    Security barriers collapsed all around the congressman as he and his escorts worked their wayinto the depths of the CIA headquarters. By the time Lake arrived at Mr. Maynard's suite, hewas walking a bit taller, with just a trace of a swagger. He couldn't help it. Power wasintoxicating.

    Teddy Maynard had sent for him.

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    Inside the room, a large, square, windowless place known unofficially as the bunker, theDirector was sitting alone, looking blankly at a large screen upon which the face ofCongressman Aaron Lake was frozen. It was a recent photo, one taken at a black-tie fund-raiser

    three months earlier where Lake had half a glass of wine, ate baked chicken, no dessert, drovehimself home, alone, and went to bed before eleven. The photo was appealing because Lake was soattractive-light red hair with almost no gray, hair that was not colored or tinted, a fullhairline, dark blue eyes, square chin, really nice teeth. He was fifty-three years old andaging superbly. He did thirty minutes a day on a rowing machine and his cholesterol was 160.They hadn't found a single bad habit. He enjoyed the company of women, especially when it wasimportant to be seen with one. His steady squeeze was a sixty-yearold widow in Bethesda whoselate husband had made a fortune as a lobbyist.

    Both his parents were dead. His only child was a schoolteacher in Santa Fe. His wife of twenty-nine years had died in 1996 of ovarian cancer. A year later, his thirteen-year-old spaniel diedtoo, and Congressman Aaron Lake of Arizona truly lived alone. He was Catholic, not that thatmattered anymore, and he attended Mass at least once a week. Teddy pushed the button and theface disappeared.

    Lake was unknown outside the Beltway, primarily because he'd kept his ego in check. If he hadaspirations to higher office, they were closely guarded. His name had been mentioned once as apotential candidate for governor of Arizona, but he enjoyed Washington too much. He lovedGeorgetown-the crowds, the anonymity, the city life-good restaurants and cramped bookstores andespresso bars. He liked theater and music, and he and his late wife had never missed an eventat the Kennedy Center.

    On the Hill, Lake was known as a bright and hardworking congressman who was articulate,fiercely honest, and loyal, conscientious to a fault. Because his district was the home of fourlarge defense contractors, he had become an expert on military hardware and readiness. He wasChairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, and it was in that capacity that he had cometo know Teddy Maynard.

    Teddy pushed the button again, and there was Lake's face. For a fifty-year veteran ofintelligence wars, Teddy seldom had a knot in his stomach. He'd dodged bullets, hidden underbridges, frozen in mountains, poisoned two Czech spies, shot a traitor in Bonn, learned sevenlanguages, fought the cold war, tried to prevent the next one, had more adventures than any tenagents combined, yet looking at the innocent face of Congressman Aaron Lake he felt a knot.

    He-the CIA-was about to do something the agency had never done before.

    They'd started with a hundred senators, fifty governors, four hundred and thirty-fivecongressmen, all the likely suspects, and now there was only one. Representative Aaron Lake ofArizona.

    Teddy flicked a button and the wall went blank. His legs were covered with a quilt. He wore thesame thing every day-a V-necked navy sweater, white shirt, subdued bow tie. He rolled hiswheelchair to a spot near the door, and prepared to meet his candidate.

    ???????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????

    During the eight minutes Lake was kept waiting, he was served coffee and offered a pastry,which he declined. He was six feet tall, weighed oneseventy, was fastidious about hisappearance, and had he taken the pastry Teddy would've been surprised. As far as they couldtell, Lake never ate sugar. Never.

    His coffee was strong, though, and as he sipped it he reviewed a little research of his own.The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the alarming flow of black market artillery into theBalkans. Lake had two memos, eighty pages of double-spaced data he'd crunched until two in themorning. He wasn't sure why Mr. Maynard wanted him to appear at Langley to discuss such amatter, but he was determined to be prepared.

    A soft buzzer sounded, the door opened, and the Director of the CIA rolled out, wrapped in aquilt and looking every day of his seventy-four years. His handshake was firm, though, probablybecause of the strain of pushing himself around. Lake followed him back into the room, leavingthe two college-educated pit bulls to guard the door.

    They sat opposite each other, across a very long table that ran to the end of the room where alarge white wall served as a screen. After brief preliminaries, Teddy pushed a button andanother face appeared. Another button, and the lights grew dim. Lake loved it push littlebuttons, high-tech images flash instantly. No doubt the room was wired with enough electronicjunk to monitor his pulse from thirty feet.

    “Recognize him?” Teddy asked.

    “Maybe. I think I've seen the face before.”

    “He's Nadi Chenkov. A former general. Now a member of what's left of the Russian parliament.”

    “Also known as Natty;” Lake said proudly.

    “That's him. Hard-line Communist, close ties to the military, brilliant mind, huge ego, veryambitious, ruthless, and right now the most dangerous man in the world.”

    “Didn't know that.”

    A flick, another face, this one of stone under a gaudy military parade hat. “This isYuriGoltsin, second in command of what's left of the Russian army. Chenkov and Goltsin have bigplans.” Another flick, a map of a section of Russia north of Moscow. “They're stockpilingarms in this region,” Teddy said. “They're actually stealing them from themselves, lootingthe Russian army, but, and more important, they're buying them on the black market”

    “Where's their money coming from?”

    “Everywhere. They're swapping oil for Israeli radar. They're trafficking in drugs and buyingChinese tanks through Pakistan. Chenkov has close ties with some mobsters, one of whom recentlybought a factory in Malaysia where they make nothing but assault rifles. It's very elaborate.Chenkov has a brain, a very high IQ. He's probably a genius.”

    Teddy Maynard was a genius, and if he bestowed that title on another, then Congressman Lakecertainly believed it. “So who gets attacked?”

    Teddy dismissed the question because he wasn't ready to answer it. “See the town of Vologda?It's about five hundred miles east of Moscow. Last week we tracked sixty Vetrov to a warehousethere. As you know, the Vetrov-”

    “Is equivalent to our Tomahawk Cruise, but two feet longer.”

    “Exactly. That makes three hundred they've moved in during the last ninety days. See the townof Rybinsk, just southwest of Vologda?”

    “Known for its plutonium.”

    “Yes, tons of it. Enough to make ten thousand nuclear warheads. Chenkov and Goltsin and theirpeople control the entire area.”

    “Control?”

    “Yes, through a web of regional mobsters and local army units. Chenkov has his people inplace.”

    “In place for what?”

    Teddy squeezed a button and the wall was blank. But the lights stayed dim, so that when hespoke across the table he did so almost firm the shadows. “The coup is right around thecorner, Mr. Lake. Our worst fears are coming true. Every aspect of Russian society and cultureis cracking and crumbling. Democracy is a joke. Capitalism is a nightmare. We thought we couldMcDonaldize the damned place, and it's been a disaster. Workers are not getting paid, andthey're the lucky ones because they have jobs. Twenty percent do not. Children are dyingbecause there are no medicines. So are many adults. Ten percent of the population are homeless.Twenty percent are hungry. Each day things get worse. The country has been looted by themobsters. We think at least five hundred billion dollars has been stolen and taken out of thecountry. There's no relief in sight. The time is perfect for a new strongman, a new dictatorwho'll promise to lead the people back to stability. The country is crying for leadership, andMr. Chenkov has decided it's up to him.”

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