Skip to main content



The Exile

Camp Hadith, West Darfur


To the untrained eye, the inhabitants of Camp Hadith might have
seemed like any group of refugees the world over --- a cluster of
lost souls bound by poverty, persecution, and a complete lack of
hope. To the untrained eye, they might have seemed tragically the
same. But in reality their squalid existence was one of the few
things they had in common.

They comprised a strange demographic made up of black Christians
from the south, African Muslims from the north, and poor Arabs from
the slums outside Khartoum. They came from a multitude of tribes,
which was arguably more important than their religious differences
given the lack of a single national identity in Africa’s
largest country. They were Dinka, Masalit, and Fur. They were
Berti, Bargo, and Beni Jarrar. But while sharing only the terrible
circumstances that had thrust them together, they could all agree
on this: were it not for the woman --- the American nurse --- their
life in the camp would have been a living hell.

As it stood, they endured a daily struggle for survival despite
the woman’s devotion to them and their unrelenting plight,
which was apparent to all. Situated one kilometer east of the paved
road from Al-Geneina to Nyala --- the capital city of South Darfur
--- the temporary settlement consisted of nothing more than three
hundred hastily constructed shelters. Most were crudely composed of
clothes, rugs, and plastic trash bags draped over a rough framework
of interwoven branches. A few lucky families --- those who had
arrived in the early stages of the camp’s development --- had
access to sturdy canvas tents supplied by USAID, also known as the
United States Agency for International Development; UNICEF; or
Médicins Sans Frontières, the Paris-based organization
better known as Doctors Without Borders.

Surrounding the entire camp was a two-and-a-half-meter fence as
crude and impermanent as the tents it was meant to secure. Covered
by black tarpaulin sheets, its wooden poles were spaced at three-
meter intervals and thrust two meters into the sodden earth to
provide a reasonably stable frame for the makeshift barrier. The
fence, in turn, was topped by a single strand of barbed wire that
ran the length of the perimeter. Beyond it there was nothing but
the road and the sun-scrubbed landscape, which stretched for miles
in every direction.

The hospital, the only permanent structure to be found within
the flimsy tarpaulin fence, rose like an island from the sweeping
sea of tents. It was a sprawling, one-story structure of reddish
brown mud bricks, each of which had been forged by a careful pair
of hands before being laid out to bake in the harsh African sun.
The humble building was topped by a roof of corrugated tin, its
windows sealed with clear plastic, which provided some protection
against the tiny winged predators whose flights could be as lethal
as that of any stealth assassins in that part of the world.

Both the flies and the mosquitoes could kill a healthy aid
worker with a single bite or sting, especially when the rains came
in late July. For the vast majority of Camp Hadith’s
residents, the risk was far greater. Unless caught at an early
stage, malaria was a virtual death sentence in the internally
displaced persons camps --- the young and the very old being at
highest risk. African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, could
be added to the long list of rampant scourges that included
measles, tuberculosis, and the worst killer of all, the HIV
retrovirus, which had held the continent in its iron grip for

And, of course, there was the poverty and ignorance. The
terrible, persistent unavailability of basic health care,
education, and nutrition, which flung open the doors to every
opportunistic strain of disease emerging from the steppes and
woodlands to the north.

Never far from the nurse’s mind, the many dangers that
plagued the camp accounted for her sense of profound sorrow as she
quietly made her way down the narrow aisle separating the
hospital’s forty beds. She always felt this way when she
stopped to consider the magnitude of what the African people had
suffered. Of what they still suffered on an hourly and daily basis.
Lily Durant had been in West Darfur for just six months, but during
that time she had come to see the true depth of hardship that her
patients endured. Not to understand it, but to see it in front of
her, around her, everywhere.

For Lily, that was an important distinction. She wanted to help
these people, but she didn’t claim to identify with them. Nor
did she pretend to understand what they were going through. Her
refusal to do so wasn’t a matter of Western arrogance --- in
fact, it was the complete opposite. In Lily’s eyes, the
situation was simple. She was there to help. Not to judge, not to
empathize, not to intellectualize. But to help. Nothing more,
nothing less.

Reaching the end of the aisle now, she heard a small noise to
her right. As she turned toward the sound to check it out, she
moved quickly to the side of the bed and knelt by the hard
mattress. Her calves and thighs immediately screamed out in
protest, as if to remind her that she’d been on her feet for
the past twenty hours. But Lily ignored the pain and focused on the
patient lying before her.

She leaned forward, her fingers brushing against the mosquito
net that covered the squirming figure.

“Hello, Limya. Badai lo cadai?” she whispered,
asking the sick girl if she needed anything in the Zaghawa tribal
dialect. It was one of many local phrases Lily had made it a
personal imperative to master. While it was nearly impossible to
absorb all the languages of the camp, she had found that even a few
key phrases could help bridge the cultural and linguistic

Do you need anything? And they all did. More than any one person
could give. But nothing was worse than nothing, and that was the
sum total of indifference.

Lily felt she’d waited a long time before the patient
replied. Then, without warning, the girl let out a short,
high-pitched squeal that sent a shiver of alarm through
Lily’s body. She grasped blindly for the girl’s fragile
hand through the mosquito netting. When she found it, she squeezed
it gently in an attempt to reassure her. Only then did Lily realize
that the girl was dreaming, caught up in the tangled web of her own
terrible past.

She continued to squirm and cry out for a few minutes

After what seemed like an eternity, the moaning began to
subside. Then it stopped altogether.

Once Lily was finally sure that the girl was asleep, she closed
her eyes and permitted herself a deep, weary sigh. She was mentally
and physically exhausted and knew that the strain was starting to
show. Even as she acknowledged the truth of this, though, she
silently rebuked herself for being so weak. What business did she
have complaining about her minor aches and pains when the people in
this very room had lost so much? The sleeping girl whose hand she
even now continued to hold was a perfect example of the terrible
things taking place in the region.

Only sixteen, Limya Sanoasi had lost her mother, father, and two
younger brothers one week earlier, when their village was razed by
the government-backed Janjaweed militiamen who terrorized the
non-Arab population of Darfur. Their methods were notorious. Rape,
torture, and murder were all considered acceptable tools of war ---
and since they had the support of the country’s ruling party,
they were virtually unstoppable.

Lily freed her hand carefully, doing her best not to wake the
girl. Then she got to her feet and started back down the aisle in
her foam- bottomed clogs, heading for the building’s single
entrance. As she passed each bed --- all of them were occupied ---
Lily silently thanked God for the relative security of the camp and
its perimeter fence, however symbolic the protection offered by the
thin tarpaulin walls might be. The Janjaweed had attacked the IDP
camps before, but such incidents were rare, as they typically
resulted in a diplomatic outcry against the regime of Omar
al-Bashir, the Sudanese president. Even al-Bashir --- a man who
topped Parade magazine’s annual list of the world’s ten
worst dictators in 2006 and three years later was charged with
crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court --- had
little interest in stirring up serious trouble with the UN or the
United States.

At least, that was the general assumption. Personally, Lily
wasn’t so sure. Less than a month earlier, the United States
had levied harsh sanctions against the North African country,
adding to the heavy restrictions already in place as a result of
the ICC’s indictment. The punitive measures had touched the
highest levels of the Sudanese government, most noticeably in the
case of the defense minister, whose U.S. accounts had been

Al-Bashir had responded to the ICC arrest warrant through
polite, if evasive, diplomatic channels --- a public fight with its
109 member nations was the furthest thing from what he wanted or
needed. But the United States, a nonmember still trying to dig its
way out from the global ill will generated by its Iraqi conflict,
was another story . . . and a convenient target for his
chest-thumping wrath.

Months after the new sanctions were imposed, he’d given a
fiery speech condemning them. And while he’d stopped short of
threatening outright retribution, there was no doubt in
anyone’s mind that he was on the verge of striking back at
the world’s lone superpower and sending out an indirect,
albeit powerful, message to the ICC --- namely, his intention of
submitting to foreign justice was nil. He was not going down
without a fight and had cast himself in the convenient, familiar
role of a victim forced to retaliate against the imperial American

The question, in the big picture, was how, and when, the first
blow would come.

Lily Durant’s recent experiences at Camp Hadith, however,
had given her a more close-up perspective. For Lily the focus
narrowed down to a little refugee camp in the middle of an African
nowhere, a teenage girl caught in the throes of her fever dreams,
and her fear that the inexorable madness of attack and reprisal
would come, rolling them into the ground.

The cold air of the desert night seeped in through the open door
and clawed at the exposed flesh of the commander’s face and
throat. He stood inside the darkened compound and watched as his
men gathered on the hard-packed dirt of the parade ground in front
of his office. The building was pitch-black, but the lights of the
compound were ablaze, rendering him invisible to those milling
about in the open area. They were laughing, joking, and slapping
each other’s shoulders. They were full of life, and watching
them, the commander could not help but smile himself. He could feel
their excitement, and it reminded him of the first time he had
embarked on a similar venture --- the first time he had
successfully probed the fragile constraints of his own moral

He could not fully relate to these men, as they were not real
soldiers in his mind, but a disparate collection of animals bound
loosely by the promise of separate rewards.

Now he watched as they checked and rechecked their weapons, an
assortment of small arms procured from every possible source:
Kalashnikovs from Ukraine, PP-19 submachine guns taken out of
Afghanistan, and Belgian-made FAL rifles left over from the bloody
civil wars in Liberia and Mozambique. A few carried AR-15s, the
civilian version of the U.S. Army’s M16. Their favored tools,
however, were not the battered firearms they carried, but the
knives, hatchets, and machetes that hung from their belt loops.

Just as they carried a variety of arms, the men wore a wide
range of clothing. A few had desert fatigues of the sort used by
the U.S. military, a uniform that carried a certain level of
prestige in the mixed unit. The rest wore police uniforms,
tracksuits, or T-shirts and jeans. Like the inhabitants of the camp
they were planning to strike, they were bound only by exigencies.
His mercenaries, with their uneven training and wild temperament,
accepting a slight degree of discipline in exchange for the promise
of combat and treasure. The dedicated and more practiced mujahideen
sharing their desire for earthly plunder, but seeking to pad their
material bounty with the eternal gratifications of Heaven.

A patchwork force, yes. Still, the commander knew how to keep
them primed and motivated as they prepared for action, knew what
heady elixir was drunk by his ragtag coalition of zealots, godless
infidels, and outlaws, whose dutiful prayers were only to assure
they reaped the rewards of the destruction they were about to deal
out. He’d savored its taste many times --- and welcomed

They were bound now by anticipation. Anticipation for the work
they would soon carry out with brutal, unrelenting purpose.
Anticipation for the job he had given them, for the blood they were
about to spill . . . and for the rewards that were sure to

Their raucous laughter poured into the night and over the dark
buildings like a rippling black tide.

The commander did his best to maintain a stoic bearing as he
watched them, although he shared their contagious enthusiasm. The
façade was necessary to preserve the fragile balance of power
that existed in the small garrison. He held control over life and
death in his hands, and there were few limits to what he could do.
In the space of a five-minute telephone call, he could seal the
fate of 100 Masalit villagers. With nothing more than a polite
suggestion, a whispered word to the major in charge in Nyala, he
could condemn a dozen Dinka children to death by fire. It was the
ultimate authority, and he had never used it sparingly. In that
respect, at least, this night’s work would be no different
from all the rest.

A sudden noise pierced the commander’s thoughts, and he
stepped through the open door into the cold night air, where the
sound of approaching diesel engines was more pronounced. He
shivered as he waited impatiently, his broad face twisting into a
frown. As bad as it was during the day, the desert was even less
accommodating at night.

Fortunately, he did not have to wait long. Less than a minute
after he stepped out of the building, the trucks rolled into view
and stopped next to the parade ground, a cloud of dust rising into
the air, mixing with the stench of diesel fumes, cigarette smoke,
and unwashed bodies. There was a loud babble of voices, and the
keyed-up men began moving toward the vehicles.

The commander’s car, a borrowed white Mercedes-Benz, was
already waiting in front of his office. The driver was behind the
wheel, his engine idling. The commander walked over, opened the
door, and slid into the rear seat. He shut the door and shivered
with pleasure when he felt the warm air churning out of the vents.
He gave a signal to his driver, and the car rolled forward, the
trucks following in convoy.

As the small line of vehicles left the main gate forty seconds
later, the commander pulled a satellite phone from the deep right
pocket of his field jacket, dialed a number from memory, and lifted
the phone to his ear. Two rings later a man answered.

“We’re on the move. Turn off the phones, and send
the plane.”

At first, Lily didn’t understand why she was awake. She
lay still for a long moment, wondering what could have possibly
roused her from her much-needed sleep. She was conscious of the
frigid air on her face, the warmth of her sleeping bag, and the
mosquito netting that was draped less than a foot over her head.
The camp was surprisingly quiet, except for the distant sound of an
infant’s cries. Everything was just as it should be, yet
something had pulled her from the deepest sleep she’d had in
a month ...and that itself was unusual.

She lay there for several minutes, listening in her stillness.
But while she heard nothing out of the ordinary, she could not
shake the sense of lingering dread.

She tugged her arms out of her sleeping bag, flopped onto her
left side, and pressed a button on her wristwatch --- a sturdy
Alpina her uncle had given her as a going-away present. The LED
display told her it was just after 4:00 a.m., which meant she had
been out for three hours. After making her rounds in the hospital,
she’d walked straight back to her tent, which was located
less than 100 feet from the building’s main entrance. She
could have had a bed inside the hospital, like the camp’s
doctor and the two other nurses, but had chosen instead to sleep in
a tent, not wanting to take away from the refugees the already
scant space inside the building.

Lily turned onto her stomach, covered her head with her pillow,
and tried to drown out the thoughts buzzing through her mind.
Literally buzzing like a hornet’s nest. There was so much to
worry about. As always, the chronic lack of food and supplies, and
now the troubling height and weight data from the feeding center.
Earlier that evening she had learned that Faisel, a one-year-old
boy from the nearby village of Sirba, was still losing weight
despite extra rations of milk and close personal attention from the
camp’s medical staff.

Given his current rate of decline, Lily feared he would not see
the end of the week, and she still didn’t know how she would
explain his death to his parents. Two weeks earlier they’d
lost his older sister, their only daughter, to dysentery. How were
they supposed to understand it? What words of comfort would she
find? Did a vocabulary even exist that could mitigate the sort of
pain and grief she believed was in store for them?

These were the types of thoughts she could not block out no
matter how hard she tried. And meanwhile the buzzing in her ears
wouldn’t stop, making her back so stiff, it ached from
tension . . . keeping her awake, wide awake, on her narrow, springy
cot inside the darkened tent.

And then, suddenly, she realized that the buzzing wasn’t
some kind of weird internal manifestation of nerves and fatigue,
after all. When the awareness hit her, she instinctively rejected
it, as the alternative just wasn’t possible. The camps were
supposed to be safe ground. She had been told as much the day she
arrived. But the noise didn’t fade. Instead, it grew steadily

Struggling to suppress her rising unease, Lily climbed out of
her sleeping bag, pulled on a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a
thick woolen sweater, and threw back the flaps of her tent. Easing
her way through the narrow opening, she got to her feet and looked
around in disbelief. She immediately realized that her earlier
dread was completely justified. Dozens of refugees were struggling
out of their makeshift shelters, and they were all staring upward,
eyes wide with fear.

She tracked her own gaze in the direction they were looking and
saw the plane at once, a black, slow-moving fleck against the
starlit sky. For a second, she allowed herself to believe it was
just a transport plane --- a small Cessna ferrying aid workers back
to Abéché, perhaps. Or a medical-supply flight making the
daily run to Al-Geneina. Even as she considered these
possibilities, though, she could hear --- and sense --- the panic
rising around her.

The refugees had no room in their psyches for denial. It had
been scoured from their inner landscapes by hard experience,
leaving them with a keen, stark acceptance of reality. They knew
what kind of plane this was. More to the point, they knew what was
coming, and they had reacted with incredible speed. Hundreds were
pouring out of their makeshift shelters, and some were already
running toward the rear of the camp, their children and a few
meager possessions caught up in their arms.

Frozen with dread and horror, Lily saw Beckett, the camp’s
doctor, stumble out of the building, a backpack slung over his
right shoulder. As he looked up at the plane circling overhead, he
did a slow, strange kind of pirouette, his mouth agape. Then his
eyes came back to ground level, and he looked around wildly. For a
second Lily didn’t understand what he was doing. Then, as she
looked on in sheer disbelief, he took off running, sprinting ahead
of the steady stream of people running for the back side of the
camp. The two nurses were just a few steps behind him.

“Hey!” she screamed, fighting to be heard over the
general panic. “Hey, where are you going?”

The sky was still dark over central Maryland as the Bell 206B
Jet- Ranger cut a fast, steady path north, sweeping over the gentle
rise of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although the helicopter had room
for four passengers, just one was on board for the short hop from
Langley, Virginia, to Camp David, in the northernmost reaches of
Catoctin Mountain Park. He had buckled in just twenty minutes
earlier, but checking his watch, the sole passenger saw that he was
already close to his final destination. The private retreat of
every U.S. president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just 70
miles from the White House, and not much farther from the
passenger’s point of embarkation. When he realized how close
they were to touching down, he swore softly under his breath.
Everything was moving too fast, and the worst was still to

Normally, he would have been gratified by the short travel time,
as it wasn’t the usual state of things. As the deputy
director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Jonathan Harper was
used to working on the fly, whether it was in the backseat of a
government car or in the air, on one of the Agency’s
executive jets. On this occasion, however, he could not bring
himself to focus on the upcoming meeting. It wasn’t even the
lack of useful information on hand, although that certainly
wasn’t helping matters. Simply stated, he was still trying to
wrap his mind around the news he had been given just one hour

The call had come in on his secure telephone at two minutes past
midnight. Fifteen minutes later he had stumbled out of his three-
story town house on Embassy Row to meet the black Lincoln Town Car
that was already idling at the curb. His driver had taken him
straight to Agency headquarters outside Langley, where the
JetRanger’s twin rotors were already turning. In his hurry to
get in the air, Harper had not had the opportunity to fully absorb
what he’d been told by the night duty officer trotting along
with him on the tarmac.

The news could not have been worse. The refugee camp at which
the president’s niece had been working in Darfur had been
burned to the ground, a fact that satellite imagery had confirmed
just five minutes earlier. They had heard from at least one
reliable witness that Lily Durant had been killed in the attack.
That particular fact had yet to be verified, though there was
little doubt in Harper’s mind that it was true.

The deputy director of operations at Langley had called Harper
personally to relay the first piece of information --- and although
it wasn’t much, Harper was grateful for it. The SATINT seemed
only to confirm their worst fears, but at least it was something to
work with. More to the point, it was hard intel. Harper
couldn’t abide conjecture for one simple reason. ...He
couldn’t afford to. The nation’s intelligence apparatus
was fueled by information, and given the stakes, that information
had to be rock solid each and every time. That partly accounted for
Harper’s dread of the upcoming meeting. He had almost no
information to work with, which meant he was about to be put in the
uncomfortable position of being briefed by his own superiors.

His own personal ignorance, however, wasn’t Harper’s
primary concern. What really worried him was the emotional element
involved in this particular situation. He had served the current
president for nearly six years, and Harper knew him to be a smart,
careful, methodical man. A man who had never let his power --- or
his anger --- influence his ability to analyze and solve a given
problem. He didn’t always come up with the right answers, but
to his credit he never lost sight of the overall picture, or the
core awareness that millions of people were affected by every
decision he made. Still, Harper couldn’t help but wonder if
the president would be able to maintain that sense of proportion
given the tragic circumstances, and felt uneasy when he considered
the possible consequences if he could not.

A voice in his ear jolted Jonathan Harper back to the present.
It was the pilot informing him that they were three minutes out.
Harper keyed his mic and acknowledged the words, then settled back
in his seat. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying
in vain to clear his mind, knowing that he would need a clear head
for the upcoming meeting.

A few minutes later the helicopter touched down with a slight
jolt, the skids settling onto the rain-drenched tarmac. Harper
waited until the pilot gave him the all clear. Then he unbuckled
his harness, removed his headset, and reached for the door.

It was a short ride from the helipad to Aspen Lodge, the
presidential cabin on the east side of the compound. As the black
Tahoe threaded its way along the steep mountain road, a Secret
Service agent behind the wheel, Harper stared out the rain-streaked
window. This was his first time visiting the presidential retreat,
and despite the troubling thoughts swirling through his mind, he
found himself absorbed in the passing scenery. He had always been
interested in history. In fact, he had minored in that particular
subject at Boston College some twenty-two years earlier, and it was
hard not to feel the weight of it here.

After passing the camp commander’s quarters, they turned
onto a secondary road and immediately hit a checkpoint. Harper
displayed his ID to the marine sergeant standing post, and the
sentry proceeded to call in the information. They were cleared
through a moment later.

Without being asked, the driver hit a button and the window
whirred up. Then the Tahoe lurched forward, the tires slipping for
a moment on the damp road. A mile or so later the road curved
gently to the left, and Aspen Lodge came into view.

Harper’s first thought was that the presidential cabin
didn’t look like much. The brightly-lit exterior was
constructed of rough-hewn planks painted a monotonous shade of
gray. A single fieldstone chimney jutted from the black shingle
roof, and the building itself was dwarfed by the surrounding oak,
maple, and hickory trees. In front of the cabin, a grassy slope led
down to a modest pond fringed by cattails and irises. On the whole,
the building looked like it could belong to anyone with a little
money and a need to get away from it all. The only sign that it
might be something more was the Secret Service agents posted in
front of the two main entrances, as well as the dark shapes Harper
had seen moving through the trees on the approach to the

Harper knew that the retreat was guarded year-round by
approximately 100 soldiers and sailors, the bulk of whom were drawn
from the ranks of the navy and the marines. As he opened the door
and stepped out of the vehicle, he found himself wondering if they
knew what had transpired in Darfur less than eight hours earlier.
Looking up at the members of the president’s detail, he took
note of the hard edge to their usual fixed expressions and decided
that these individuals, at least, had been made aware of the
situation. Even from 30 feet away, Harper could sense their anger
and frustration. A person close to the president had died on their
watch, and they had been unable to stop it from happening. Of
course, it was absurd to think they could have prevented it, and on
some level, they would know that as well. At the same time, Harper
was quietly impressed by their demeanor. In his eyes, the fact that
they were taking it so personally was a testament to their
commitment and professionalism.

A tall figure was coming down the steps at a brisk pace, his
features blotted out by the light at his back. As he drew closer,
his face came into focus, and Harper recognized him at once. Joshua
McCabe was the assistant director of the Office of Protective
Research, one of the senior figures in the U.S. Secret Service.
Harper had worked with him several years earlier to prevent an
attempt on the president’s life. The CIA --- and one man in
particular --- had been instrumental in preventing the
assassination, and to his credit, McCabe had never forgotten the
Agency’s crucial role in averting that near catastrophe.
Thanks to him, Harper had more access to the president than most of
the cabinet. More importantly, McCabe was able to provide insight
as to the president’s general mood, as well as his stance on
various issues. Harper supposed that accounted for why he felt
relieved beyond measure to see him coming down the steps.

“Josh, it’s good to see you.” Harper extended
a hand. “I just wish it was under different

“Same here,” McCabe replied as they shook. “We
need to get inside. They’re waiting.”

Normally, Harper would have been taken aback by the assistant
director’s curt tone. Looking at the other man’s face,
though, he could see that McCabe was merely trying to tell him
something. He realized that his fears regarding the
president’s mind-set were probably completely justified. That
was about the only thing that could have shaken McCabe to this

“Who’s in there?” he asked.

“Andrews and Stralen are meeting with the POTUS right now.
Thayer was --- ”

“Stralen?” Harper frowned. Joel Stralen was the
recently appointed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and
a close personal friend of the president. He was also a very vocal
opponent of the CIA, which he considered to be a rival agency.
Harper could almost understand the man’s mind-set, as to some
extent, every government agency was in constant competition for a
larger chunk of the federal budget, but that didn’t make his
animosity any less tiresome or easier to bear. “Where did he
land from?”

“I have no idea. He arrived fifteen minutes ago, and he
went straight in.” They were 20 feet from the main entrance
and walking as slowly as they possibly could. “Are you aware
of the timeline?”

Harper nodded, but in truth, he hadn’t really considered
it until now. The attack on the camp in West Darfur had taken place
eight hours earlier, at 2:00 a.m. Darfur time. Sudan was eight
hours ahead of Washington. The first report hadn’t come into
the U.S. embassy in Khartoum until six o’clock in the morning
local time, and it had taken another forty minutes for someone to
verify that the president’s niece was, indeed, based at the
camp that had been targeted. Harper checked his watch and saw that
it was half past one. That meant that the president had heard the
news less than . . .

Jesus. Harper shook his head as the time frame came together in
his mind. The president had known for just over an hour. Not much
longer than he had known himself. No wonder McCabe was worried.

“Yeah,” Harper said. “I know the
timeline.” They were 15 feet from the main entrance, and he
made an effort to slow his pace even more. “Any word on Lily

McCabe shook his head slowly. “Nothing new. You know how
we found out, right?”

Harper nodded. He had been brought up to speed by the night duty
officer out at Langley even as they’d raced toward the
airstrip. It had started, he knew, with a panicked call from Greg
Beckett, the UNICEF doctor assigned to Camp Hadith, to the U.S.
embassy in Khartoum. Harper had yet to see the transcript, but he
knew most of what had been said between Beckett and the chief of
mission, who had taken the call personally. Beckett had run when
the attack began, but he had seen the entire thing unfold from a
distance. About an hour after the raiders had left, he had ventured
back into the camp with two other aid workers.

Inside the hospital, they had discovered the remains of 40
people, including Lily Durant. It had taken an hour from that point
for the phones to come back on, at which time Beckett had placed
his frantic call to the embassy.

“Have we been able to verify what Beckett said? I mean,
has anyone actually seen her body?”

“Not yet. It’s going to take a few hours to get
people out to the scene, but we have no reason to doubt what he
told us.”

Harper took a second to think that over. “Does the
president know? I mean, does he really know?”

McCabe suddenly stopped walking. Harper was caught off guard,
but he stopped, turned, and stepped back to face the assistant

“I think he does,” McCabe said. He seemed to
hesitate, but he had already said too much, and there was no point
in stopping now. “He’s not taking it well, John. They
were very close.”

Harper took a moment to absorb this unwelcome news. It was just
as he’d feared, and he only hoped he wasn’t too late to
reverse the slide. The world was a complicated place, and it was
hard enough for a president to calmly process those complexities
when weighing a response to brute aggression. When emotion entered
the equation, it inevitably blew the whole damn thing to pieces.
And Harper did not want to be in the position of having to stop
President David Brenneman from making a potentially catastrophic
decision based on nothing more than the rawest of passions.

“How did they find her?” he mused aloud. Whoever the
hell they might be. “Did the leak spring from her end, or

McCabe shrugged uneasily. “That is obviously what we need
to figure out. When Lily decided to go over there, the president
tried to talk her out of it. And when he couldn’t, he made an
effort to distance himself so there wouldn’t be tracks anyone
could follow. I guess he was trying to protect her…and to be
fair, it worked for a long time.”

“Until now,” Harper murmured.

“Right,” McCabe said. “Until now.”

His voice was strained, but Harper thought it was something more
than the normal stress of the situation. Was it possible he had
known Durant personally? It would certainly explain the casual way
in which he had used her first name.

“Maybe it was intentional, and maybe it
wasn’t,” McCabe was saying, “but someone gave her
away, and the regime in Khartoum took advantage --- ”

Harper interrupted. “How do we know that?”

“I didn’t say we know anything. But someone sent
armed units in after her, and al-Bashir has been waving his sword
for months. There’s no doubt he’s capable.”

“Capable isn’t the same as responsible. What
I’m hearing is speculation, Josh, and that’s fine as a
springboard. But it’s way too soon to draw conclusions. We
need to take a step back and --- ”

“Hey,” McCabe broke in, spreading his arms wide,
“you’ll get no argument from me. I agree with you, and
I am not the man you need to convince.” He lowered his voice
and took a step forward. “POTUS needs to hear it from you,
and he needs to hear it now. He’s too close to the whole
thing, and Stralen isn’t helping matters at all. He’s
been adding fuel to the fire ever since he arrived.”

Harper nodded slowly. “Where are they?”

McCabe shook his head grimly as they started to climb the steps.
Clearly, he wasn’t anxious to go back in there.
“I’ll show you,” he said.

Harper followed the assistant director through the front door,
ignoring the two agents sheltering beneath the eaves. The entrance
hall was dark, as though the building itself were in mourning, but
Harper still managed to catch sight of his reflection in a
circular, gilt- framed mirror hanging over a mahogany side table.
Fortunately, McCabe took that moment to confer with an agent
standing nearby, and Harper turned to the mirror to check his
appearance more thoroughly. His navy Brooks Brothers suit was
slightly rumpled and damp at the shoulders; his tie poorly knotted.
His graying brown hair was plastered to his head, and there was a
slight nick on his throat where he had cut himself shaving. Minor
imperfections, he decided. For the most part, he looked as
respectable as anyone could at half past one in the morning.

McCabe waved him forward, and they continued down a long, dimly
lit hall leading to a single door at the end. An uncomfortable-
looking agent stood outside the living room, and as they
approached, Harper could hear elevated voices beyond the plain
wooden door.

They stopped just short of the door, and once again McCabe
murmured something to the man standing post. Turning back to
Harper, the assistant director grimaced and lifted his eyebrows in
a silent question. Harper straightened his tie and nodded once,
indicating that he was ready.

McCabe leaned forward and tapped on the door. There was a brief
silence, and then a voice called out for Harper to enter.


Like the rest of the building, the living room was draped in
shadow. Harper thought that during the day, the picture windows on
the east wall would have provided a spectacular view of the
Monocacy Valley. Now, at this early hour, they offered nothing more
than a hazy reflection of the room itself. A large fieldstone
fireplace dominated the southwest corner of the room, the chimney
towering up to the open second floor, and framed photographs of
former presidents occupied every inch of the beige walls. The
carpet was government issue, gray and sturdy, and the mismatched
furniture looked as if it might have been purchased at a yard

Harper was dimly aware of all of this, but for the most part,
his attention was fixed on the three other men in the room --- and
on one man in particular.

Robert Andrews, the director of Central Intelligence and
Harper’s immediate boss, was seated on a red leather love
seat facing the fireplace. He was a heavyset man with dark, curly
hair, dressed in his standard Ralph Lauren suit. He nodded curtly
as his deputy crossed the room toward the seating area. The man
seated to his left, Harper saw, was General Joel Stralen. In his
early fifties, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency was
wiry and tan, with a sparse fringe of iron gray hair, thin lips,
and deep-set eyes. He was wearing his customary blue USAF service
dress uniform, though his jacket was slung over the back of his
chair. Harper returned Andrews’s strained, silent greeting
but ignored Stralen, who was staring at him with undisguised
contempt. Instead, he began moving toward the man standing in front
of the large windows.

On any given day David Brenneman looked at least a decade
younger than his fifty-five years. However, the news he had just
received had aged him in a way the rigors of the office had never
managed to do. His silver-brown hair was disheveled, his eyes were
red rimmed and bloodshot, and his mouth had set in a tight, angry

As Harper approached, he was acutely aware of the
president’s stance. Dressed in a navy tracksuit bearing the
insignia of his alma mater, Georgetown University, he stood with
his feet apart and his hands curled into useless fists by his
sides, like a fighter who’d been sucker punched bracing for a
second blow.

Harper could only imagine what he was feeling at that moment.
David Brenneman was arguably the single most powerful person in the
world, and yet, for all that, he had just taken a hit to the gut
from which he would probably never recover. Worse still, there was
nothing he could do to make it right, despite the enormous
resources at his disposal. Harper couldn’t have articulated
why, but the tracksuit made him look all the more exposed.
Brenneman was the president, yes. But this morning he was first and
foremost a man reeling from grief.

Harper stopped a few feet away and forced himself to meet
Brenneman’s eyes.

“Sir,” he began awkwardly, “I’m truly
sorry for your loss. Believe me, we will do everything in our power
to find the people who are responsible, and when we do, there is
nothing to stop us from --- ”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

At first Harper didn’t know where the words had come from.
Then he turned to face the man who had snapped out the question.
Stralen had jumped out of his chair and was staring at him with a
mixed expression of irritation and disbelief.

“Excuse me?” Harper said.

“You heard. What are you talking about?” said
Stralen. “We already know who did the deed. It was one man,
and we know exactly where to find him. The only question is what
we’re going to do about it.”

Harper let his gaze drift from Stralen to his immediate
superior. Andrews was shaking his head slowly, almost
imperceptibly, his gaze fixed on some distant corner of the room.
Clearly, he wasn’t about to stand up to his counterpart at
the DIA. Harper wondered how long he had been able to withstand the
blunt force of the general’s rhetoric, or if he had even

“Sir, with all due respect, it’s too early to draw
any conclusions about --- ”

“That’s bullshit,” Stralen said. “You
know damn well that Bashir was behind this. It’s payback for
the sanctions we slapped on them last month. What else could it

Harper frowned. “I don’t think that’s likely.
Bashir may be dangerous, but he isn’t certifiably insane. Why
would he do this? What could he possibly hope to gain?”

Stralen was already shaking his head. “Who knows?”
he snapped. “A world court’s issued a warrant for him
--- and backed him into a corner. When he tried to attend
Zuma’s swearing-in conference as president of South Africa,
Bashir was warned to stay home. Even those corrupt bastards in
Uganda reluctantly washed their hands of him through diplomatic
channels. As signatories to the ICC they’d have had to arrest
him if he showed at their regional conference.”

“How’s any of that lead him to an act of retribution
against us?” Harper asked.

“I don’t know how his mind connects the dots. Or
even what dots they connect. But it’s a moot point, anyway.
There are witnesses.” Stralen pounded his right hand into his
left to emphasize the point. “The camp’s doctor,
Beckett, the man who reported the attack in the first place. He ran
when the bombs started to fall, but he didn’t run far. He saw
the whole thing from a distance, and he swears that he saw a man in
army uniform getting out of a white Mercedes. Besides, there was a
plane. If there was no government authorization, where did the
plane come from?”

“I don’t know,” Harper said carefully.

Stralen narrowed his eyes. “Are you telling me you
don’t think the Sudanese government has a hand in

“I think it might bear some level of

Stralen narrowed his eyes. “What does that mean,
‘some level’?”

“I mean Bashir provides funds and training for the
Janjaweed through the army,” Harper explained. “But he
does not direct ongoing operations in Darfur. He leaves that to his
generals. There is a good chance he wasn’t even aware of this
particular attack, much less who was stationed at the

  “You can’t be serious.” Stralen looked
at Andrews, then back to Harper, as though searching for an
explanation. “Do you really expect us to believe that this
was a mistake? Some kind of coincidence?”

  “No, of course not. That is not what I’m
implying. I’m simply saying that Bashir might not have
authorized it,” Harper asserted.

“And what about the plane? Let’s not forget that
bombs were dropped,” said Stralen.

“I haven’t.” Harper sighed. “But a lot
of ordnance and combat equipment is floating around out there on
the black market. And across the region. Tanks, attack boats ---

“I repeat, Harper. This was a bomber. An F-7N, according
to our real-time infrared satellite data. What does that tell

Harper didn’t answer. Acquired from Iran back in the late
nineties, the Chinese-built warplanes were known to have been used
in Sudan’s bombing campaigns against rebel ground troops
during its last civil war. Which in his mind still proved

He turned toward the president; the last thing he wanted here
was a spitting contest. “Sir, I know it must seem pretty
clear-cut from where you’re standing. But I don’t think
there’s sufficient evidence Omar al-Bashir ordered the
attack, and I don’t think we’ve established motive. He
knows the consequences for himself and his government. To go after
you personally, and in this way, would be an incredibly stupid
thing to do at a time when he’s already under siege. Bashir
is a lot of things, but he isn’t stupid. It would be an act
of sheer lunacy for him to authorize your niece’s

Harper paused, painfully aware that it was the first time those
words had been spoken aloud. For a long moment the president
didn’t respond, his red eyes fixed on some random point on
the far wall. When he spoke, his voice was dangerously low.

“There’s that plane, John. Let’s not dance
around it. And those men were wearing army uniforms,” he
said. “Bashir controls the army. It’s one thing for
them to raid a local village with impunity. But they’re still
undeniably on a leash ...a long one, maybe, but a leash
nonetheless. Say what you will, they don’t lift a finger
against us unless he tells them to.”

Harper was momentarily shaken by the quiet rage he heard in the
president’s voice --- as well as the utter conviction. But he
did his best to set it aside, knowing that he couldn’t stop
now. Someone had to bring the man back from the brink, and it was
clear that he was the only person still willing to try.

“Yes, but that just supports my point, sir. Even if they
destroyed the whole camp, some of the refugees were bound to
escape. There were going to be witnesses either way, so why would
Bashir make the government’s role in the attack so blatantly
evident? Why would he allow the trail to lead right back to his

“To send a message,” Stralen said.
“Isn’t that obvious? He claimed he was going to do as
much when the State Department issued the sanctions last

“It wouldn’t be the first time he spouted
inflammatory rhetoric,” Harper pointed out, “and not
once in twenty years has he lifted a finger to do even half of what
he threatens. What would make things different this time?”
The deputy director shook his head and looked back at the
president. “Sir, again, I’m not saying Bashir
didn’t have a hand in this. Plain and simple, I’m
trying to point out that we need to have all the facts, look into
every possibility, before you decide on a course of

“And what happens in the meantime?” Stralen asked

Harper reluctantly turned his attention back to the air force

“You want us to sit on our hands while Bashir sits in
Khartoum, laughing about what he’s done?” Stralen said,
not giving an inch. “About what he’s gotten away with?
Is that what you’re suggesting?”

“What are you suggesting?” Harper asked, meeting the
other man’s cold blue eyes. He knew he had crossed a line,
but he couldn’t back down. Andrews had already done that, and
someone had to stop this conversation before it escalated to a far
more dangerous level. “What do you propose we do instead,

“What I propose,” Stralen growled, “is that we
send in a two- or three-man Delta team to verify his position, and
then we drop a JDAM right on top of the bastard’s head. What
I suggest is that we take him out, once and for all.”

There was complete silence in the room. Harper stared at the
newly appointed head of the DIA for a long moment and
couldn’t help but wonder if the man understood the full
gravity of what he was saying. Then he turned to look at the
president. “Sir, please tell me you are not seriously
considering this.”

Brenneman had turned to face the window, but his shoulders were
tense, his hands still curled into fists at his sides. He did not
respond, giving Harper no idea what he was thinking.
“Sir,” Harper said, trying again, “I implore you
to look at the larger picture. Omar al-Bashir may be a ruthless
dictator, but he is still a head of state, the president of the
largest country in Africa.”

“He’s also a wanted man according to the ICC,”
Brenneman said.

“And we’ve consistently opposed the court’s
authority on the basis of its determinations shackling our
political and military policies …and creating a global
standard of justice that may conflict with our own. It would be
hypocritical to use the indictment as an excuse to go after
Bashir.” Harper gave that a moment to sink in. “We all
need to remember that while Bashir stays within his own sovereign
borders, he has practical immunity from any indictment. We
can’t legally send forces across those borders to arrest him.
And we can’t just assassinate him.”

“So he gets away with it,” Brenneman murmured. He
was still facing the window. “Is that right? Is that what
you’re proposing?”

For a few seconds Harper wasn’t sure how to respond. It
was suddenly apparent that the president hadn’t really heard
a word he’d said, and for one simple reason --- he
didn’t want to. He was lost in his own private world of pain
and grief, and for the time being, he was looking for one thing
alone...a way to lash out. In that respect, Stralen was giving him
exactly what he wanted, someone to blame and punish for his
niece’s death.

Harper could see the appeal. Any human being with a beating
heart would be tempted by the lure of immediate vengeance. But that
didn’t make it sane or right.

“Mr. President.” It was Andrews who had spoken now,
and Harper turned toward him in mild surprise. This was the first
time the director had made his presence known since his deputy had
entered the room. “With all due respect, Jonathan is right.
We can decide Bashir is accountable, but we can’t take him
out. The international community would never stand for

“Who cares what they’re willing to stand for?”
Stralen said. He fixed his counterpart at the CIA with an angry,
accusing stare. “That isn’t the issue here, and for a
change our primary concern shouldn’t be world opinion.”
He shifted his attention to Harper. “As for your re marks
about the ICC ...I don’t give a damn about that organization.
The indictment is fine with me but should have no bearing on our
actions one way or another.”

“Okay, forget the ICC,” Harper said. “With all
due respect, General Stralen . . . are you aware Sudan has an
estimated oil reserve of two hundred billion barrels in its very
large chunk of the Muglad Basin? And that Russia has made
monumental financial and material investments in the Sudanese oil
industry? The deals Putin has cut with Khartoum...specifically
exercising his political clout through Slavneft --- ”

Stralen speared him with his gaze. “Don’t lecture
me. I know all about Slavneft.”

Harper looked back at Stralen without blinking and went on with
slow deliberation. “Then I assume you’re aware it is
not only Russia’s seventh or eighth largest oil firm but is
wholly state owned,” he said. “I’m sure you also
realize the Russians, via Slavneft, have spent something in excess
of two hundred million dollars to develop the Abyei petroleum
fields in south-central Sudan as part of an umbrella trade
agreement --- I think it’s fair to use the term alliance ---
that requires Sudan to subsidize a large chunk of that investment
with the purchase of Russian military hardware. Given what you
know, I probably don’t have to add that Sudan set an earlier
precedent for this relationship with China, which now drills as
much of a sixth to a quarter of its total oil supply from fields in
the western part of the country. That’s about two hundred
thousand barrels every day of the week. The exchange there has
involved weapons, too. Primarily small arms, though there were
separate arrangements for the sale of Chinese attack aircraft and
pilot training to Sudan. And assurances that Beijing would massage
the United Nations Security Council in all matters relating to
Bashir’s regime, including his genocidal slaughter of the
Dinka tribe --- ”

“Enough.” Brenneman had turned away from the window
without warning. “That’s enough. I don’t want to
hear any more.”

Everyone in the room fell silent. His anguish was plain for all
to see. If Harper had to guess, he would have said that the
president’s grief was surpassed only by his barely suppressed

“Sir, I understand that you’re upset,” Harper
continued quickly. All he could think about was cutting off Stralen
before he could do any more damage. “My apologies if this is
repetitious . . . but going after Bashir directly would be a huge
mistake. There’s no stressing that enough. It is not a viable
or responsible course of --- ”

“Upset?” The president stared at him with a blank,
uncomprehending gaze. The deputy director instantly realized that
he had missed something in Brenneman’s tone of voice moments
ago and, in doing so, had made a monumental error in judgment.
Before he could take it back, though, Brenneman continued in a
voice tinged with the wrong kind of amusement. “My niece has
just been murdered by a pack of savages in a third-world country,
and you think I’m upset? That’s very perceptive of you,
John. Thank you for shedding some light on the

“Sir, I…”

The president held up a hand to stop him, then shifted his gaze
to a far corner of the room, his face fixed in a tight expression
of barely suppressed fury. “That will be all for now, John.
Would you step outside, please? Josh will come and find you if we
need anything else.”

Harper opened his mouth to respond, hoping to repair the damage,
but nothing came out, and he could see that Brenneman would not
tolerate any further argument. He shot a quick glance at his boss
and saw that Andrews was studying him with a mixed expression of
frustration, sympathy…and, perhaps worst of all, futility. He
didn’t have to look at Stralen to know he would see something
very contrary to that in the general’s eyes.

Harper knew when he was beaten. With a sinking feeling, he
acknowledged the president’s order in silence. Then he turned
and walked out of the room, closing the door gently behind him.

It was still raining when Jonathan Harper stepped outside a few
moments later --- a warm, soft rain that seemed to drift out of
nowhere. He walked past the agents standing post, down the steps,
and continued on the drive, unconsciously trying to put some
distance between himself and the president’s cabin. Tilting
his head back, he looked up at the empty black sky and closed his
eyes. His head was buzzing, and he was completely unaware of the
inclement weather, even though the rain was dripping down his face
and his suit coat was already soaked through.

Harper was stunned to the core by what had just taken place. He
had been advising David Brenneman for nearly six years, and in all
that time he had never seen the man behave in such an irrational
way. That’s very perceptive of you, John. Thank you for
shedding some light on the situation. Harper regretted his verbal
miscue, but it probably hadn’t worsened matters so much as
exposed their already dire nature. Brenneman was allowing his grief
and anger to cloud his judgment, and Stralen’s provocative
statements --- none of which were based on confirmed facts --- were
only making things worse.

Harper had lost track of how long he had been standing there
when he heard voices behind him. He turned to see Director Andrews
walking down the steps, followed closely by Joshua McCabe. The two
men paused at the top of the drive to shake hands, and even from a
distance, Harper could see that they were both subdued, their
shoulders slumped beneath a shared, invisible burden. As he looked
on, McCabe turned to go back into the cabin. Then the director
lifted a hand in his deputy’s direction and pointed toward
the Tahoe parked nearby. A minute later they were both seated
inside the large truck.

Harper was tempted to apologize for the damage he had caused,
but decided it would be better to let the other man breach the
awkward silence.

The director pulled a linen handkerchief from his inner jacket
pocket and used it to methodically wipe the rain from his face.
When he finally spoke, he did so quietly and without turning to
face his subordinate.

“You didn’t help us in there, John,” he said.
“You didn’t help us at all. You did your homework, and
I thought it might have been enough to get through to Brenneman.
But it would’ve been better if you’d quit while you
were ahead and given him some time to mull things over. By pushing
it, you went and played right into Stralen’s hands. Made him
seem almost reasonable. Now, thanks to you, we’re on the

Harper bit his tongue, though he was sorely tempted to remind
the other man of his own meager contribution to the heated argument
inside the building. Instead, he simply agreed quietly.

Andrews acknowledged the words with a short nod, though judging
by the testy look on his face, he could tell that his
deputy’s apology was less than sincere. “Look, I think
I managed to talk him down a bit,” he continued. “At
least for the time being. Of course, Stralen is a problem for us,
and he’s not going away. He’s probably still in there
trying to undo everything I just said.”

“He doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking
about,” Harper snapped, his demeanor of feigned calm slipping
away with the mere mention of the other man. “I can’t
believe he doesn’t understand the consequences that come with
killing a head of state, especially when you don’t have
ironclad proof to justify direct action. In this day and age, it
just isn’t done.”

Andrews shook his head wearily. “Don’t sell Stralen
short, John. He’s a very smart man who understands more than
you might think. And he has a great deal of power at his
fingertips. You would be wise to remember that. More to the point,
he has the president’s ear. He can’t be discounted
simply because you don’t like or agree with him.”

“That isn’t the issue, Bob. The man is beyond
dangerous. You heard what he was saying in there. I send out a
warning flare about getting into a pissing contest with Russian and
China, and he does his best to shoot it right down.” Harper
shook his head. “Normally, the president would never consider
something so crazy. He just doesn’t want to listen to reason
right now…He’s too wrapped up in what happened to his
niece. Too emotionally invested.”

The director didn’t seem to hear. His mouth was pursed
into a sullen frown; his dark eyes locked on the seat in front of

“What is it?” Harper said. “Jesus Christ, you
weren’t even paying attention.”

Andrews shook his head. “Wrong,” he said.
“I’ve registered every word out of your

“Then you’re keeping something from me, Bob, because
you normally don’t go blank like you did a minute

Andrews sat in silence for a long moment, that expression of
brooding dismay again dropping over his features like a curtain.
Finally he let out a deep, heavy sigh.

“The secretary of state is this close to jumping on board
with Stralen,” he said, holding his thumb and forefinger
slightly apart.

Harper stared at him, incredulous. “Brynn
Fitzgerald?” he said. “Do you know this for a

“It’s my informed read,” Andrews said.
“I spoke with her before heading over here. Actually, she
called me after speaking to the president.”

“You’ve got to be mistaken. She’s one of the
most reasonable people in Washington. How could she suddenly be
that knee-jerk?”

“I don’t know,” Andrews said. “Loyalty
to the president? Or maybe the residual effect of having been taken
hostage in Pakistan…and watching one of her good friends
cold-bloodedly shot to death in the process. Whatever explains it,
we’re seeing a lot of clouded judgment around us.” He
shrugged his shoulders. “Let’s take this thing a step
at a time, John. It isn’t as if we have a choice, anyway. You
have to remember that the president’s had only an hour or so
to soak it all in. Besides, I think I managed to talk some sense
into him. At least for now. Needless to say, we’re going to
have to watch this closely. If he decides to do something drastic,
it’s going to come back on us, whether we were involved or
not. That is just the way it goes, and I have no intention of
letting the Agency take the fall for something Stralen talked him
into doing.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Harper replied,
relieved to see that Andrews had recovered some of his mettle. He
was going to need it if the general wasn’t content to let
things lie, and Harper had a bad feeling that the director was
right. Stralen was probably still in there pleading his case to the
president. “So how do you want to handle this?”

The director thought for a moment. “In my opinion, the
best way to defuse the situation is to give Brenneman the man who
carried out the actual attack. An eye for an eye, so to

“I agree. And given his current pickle with the World
Court, I feel pretty confident that Bashir will hand him over
without too much of a fight. After all, that would be the best way
to prove that he had nothing to do with the raid...and a chance for
a little diplomatic quid pro quo.”

“You think he’d push for us to make overtures to the

“Bashir would want something in return for his
cooperation.” Harper shrugged. “I’m sure
he’d have no shortage of bargaining chips.”

Andrews looked skeptical. “Do you really believe that
he’s innocent of this? Because I have to say, John, it
doesn’t seem likely, and you didn’t exactly convince
the president, either.”

“I just don’t see how doing something this brutal
and direct would benefit the regime in Khartoum,” Harper
reasoned. “Bashir wouldn’t see it, either. He knows how
to work the international community. Remember his pilgrimage to
Mecca? This is with the ICC warrant pinned to his back. And if that
wasn’t defiant enough, he attends the Arab Union summit in
Qatar after saying his devout prayers. Complains that the
ICC’s decisions are biased against Africans. I mean, can you
picture it? He’s a fugitive from justice, and there you have
Kaddafi holding his hand in a gesture of brotherhood, calling the
ICC a terrorist body. Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general’s
squirming with embarrassment at the dais.”

Andrews sighed. “I remember that junket. He can be like
Saddam in his heyday.”

“That’s exactly my point, Bob. He knows what he can
get away with, and the murder of the president’s niece does
not fall into that category. Of course, he’ll deny it, anyway
--- I’m surprised he hasn’t done so already. But Bashir
will have to understand he needs to deliver the goods…the man
who actually carried out the attack. That is the person we need to
get our hands on. That is the person who can stop this from going
any further than it already has.”

“And what if you’re wrong?” Andrews asked
quietly. “Or if Bashir decides not to play along for some
reason? What then?”

Harper mused over the questions for a moment, but the answers
were already clear. “If it gets to that stage, we’ll
have no choice but to find the man ourselves. Otherwise, Stralen
will have exactly what he needs to pressure the president into
making a bad decision. Omar al- Bashir may be a devil, but
he’s the devil we know, and we have no idea who might be
waiting in the wings to take his place.”

Andrews paused to let that sink in. “I’m not
arguing, John. But do you have any idea how difficult it would be
to pick one man out of Sudan? We don’t even have a name, let
alone a face. If Bashir doesn’t give him up, who is capable
of going in there to find him?”

“I would have thought that was obvious.”

Andrews finally shifted in his seat to look at his subordinate.
His gaze was steady and flat, completely unreadable. “I
thought he was out.”

“He is out. He was out the last couple of times we needed
him, too, but that didn’t stop him from coming back. If
we’re forced to get involved on a deeper level, I’d
rather have him running point than anyone else. Besides, he’s
already over there.”

“In Africa?”

“Right,” Harper said. “He’s been working
with Blackwater for the last couple of months.”

“Private security?” Andrews seemed surprised by
this. “Is it one of our operations?”

The Departments of Defense and State regularly contracted out
security work, including the safeguarding of foreign leaders and
dignitaries overseas, to independent outfits through various
governmental agencies, including the Bureau of Diplomatic Security
--- which technically fell under the purview of the DOS.

Harper shrugged. “I think it’s direct between
Blackwater and the government of South Africa, though we might have
been consulted,” he said. “Last I heard, he was running
one of their mobile security units.”

The director frowned, clearly uncomfortable with the prospect of
bringing Ryan Kealey back into the fold. “You think you can
talk him into it? The last time he did something for us, it nearly
got him killed. Not to mention the other part.”

Harper nodded briskly. “He’ll get on board, one way
or another.” He sounded more confident than he probably
should have, but he didn’t want to give the director a chance
to change his mind. What Harper hadn’t said was that Andrews
was right. Everything rested on what he had so tactfully described
as the other part. The death of Naomi Kharmai, and its lingering
effect on him. It was potentially the single greatest obstacle to
drawing Kealey back into the fold, and Harper knew that when the
time came, he would have to approach with the utmost care. To that
end, he’d already arranged for a meeting in Baltimore with
someone who could be of immense help.

Of course, the hope was that it wouldn’t come down to
getting Kealey involved, but somehow, Harper already knew that it
would. The only question was how long the president would be able
to stand up to Stralen, and what disastrous course of action might
result from that uncomfortable union.

Excerpted from THE EXILE © Copyright 2011 by Andrew
Britton. Reprinted with permission by Kensington. All rights

The Exile
by by Andrew Britton

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • ISBN-10: 0758242697
  • ISBN-13: 9780758242693