(Read an excerpt from Chapter 1: Purchase here on Amazon.)
Monday, June 22
The shooter was just around the corner from me. To get to him, I would need to cross N Street.
If I crossed N Street, he would have a clear shot at me.
I decided to wait him out.
He had already eluded several SWAT teams in the Washington Navy Yard, the home of U.S. Naval Operations, and now he was hunkered down inside the entryway of Building 175. I suspected he was trying to find an exit out of the former shipyard.
If I remained at my present location, at the corner of Building 172, he would walk right into my waiting arms when he crossed N Street. I stayed put.
I wasn’t exactly sure how the shooter had end up at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. on a summer morning in June, but I’d arrived at the location after driving non-stop from Norman, Oklahoma.
Douglas Carlton, my operations officer, and the head of the Middle East desk at the CIA, had called me the day before and given me the surprising news I’d been restored to active duty status by the stroke of a pen from Robert Ira, the Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA.
Three months earlier, the DDO had placed me on medical leave after the two of us had engaged in a very public spat regarding his competency. I’d questioned him about his ability to run Operations, because I’d discovered his political games at the Agency had brought down my network in Tehran.
Needless to say, things had not gone smoothly for me after that, and, except for a brief run into Caracas to capture a Hezbollah assassin, I’d spent the last two months in Norman, Oklahoma on medical leave.
Ostensibly, I’d been there trying to recuperate from shattering my leg while trying to escape the clutches of VEVAK, the Iranian secret police. But, in reality, everyone at the Agency knew my medical leave was simply Ira’s way of punishing me for berating him in front of two division heads during a debriefing.
Immediately after Carlton had called to tell me I’d been reinstated, I’d gotten in touch with my property manager in Norman. After that, I’d reluctantly said goodbye to Nikki Saxon, a detective in the Norman Police Department, and I’d made my way across the southern states to the east coast.
An hour before arriving at Building 172, I’d been cruising along the interstate outside of Fairfax, Virginia. That’s when I’d called Carlton to let him know I’d be in his office at Langley within the hour.
My boss didn’t sound happy.
“Don’t bother,” he said. “There’s been a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and all federal agencies within a fifty-mile radius of Washington D.C. are on lockdown.”
“Are you telling me you’re not allowed to leave the grounds?”
“Not just the grounds. We’re being told to stay inside the buildings.”
“Doesn’t that strike you as a little strange? You’re supposed to be providing intel for any threats to the homeland. How can you assess threats when you’re not allowed to leave your own backyard?”
“We’re being told it’s for our own safety. The feds believe the shooters could be part of a coordinated attack against all government agencies in the area. The CIA is an obvious target.”
He was quiet for several seconds, and I imagined him aligning the corners of the pile of papers in front of him—a compulsive habit and one of his many idiosyncrasies.
“One of the shooters at the Navy Yard has already been taken out, but the feds believe the other one is still somewhere in the compound.”
“What nationality is the dead guy?”
“He wasn’t from the Middle East, if that’s what you’re thinking. He’s been identified as Reyes Valario, and he’s been here on a student visa from Venezuela for at least a year. The FBI is sifting through the intel on him as we speak, and our own analysts are scanning the data banks as well.”
“Did they call Salazar for his input?”
Carlton made some kind of strange noise at the back of his throat.
I didn’t think the timing of his guttural utterance was coincidental with the mention of Salazar’s name.
C.J. Salazar was the head of the Latin American desk at the Agency. He wasn’t known for his astute grasp of the region. Instead, his focus was on the drug cartels operating in his territory, and, for that reason, everyone around the Agency called him Cartel Carlos.
Not to his face, though.
I’d experienced his ineptitude firsthand on my recent run into Caracas during Operation Clear Signal. Both Salazar and Carlton had been part of the Clear Signal team directing Ben Mitchell and me as we tried to stop a Hezbollah assassin from murdering a high-profile government official in Caracas, Venezuela.
Carlton said, “The Department of Homeland Security called C.J., but he didn’t give them anything.”
“Nothing at all?”
“Well, he did have our analysts run down Valario’s prints and the origins of his visa. He also called Ben Mitchell, who was in D.C. at the time, and sent him over to the DHS Command Center in the Navy Yard. He said since Ben had recently been in Venezuela, it made sense for him to serve as the Agency’s liaison with DHS.”
“Ben’s over at the Command Center? I might head over there myself. I’m not that far away.”
“You haven’t been reinstated yet, Titus. Officially, you’re still on medical leave.”
“I’ll keep my head down. It won’t be a big deal.”
But then, it was.