Prologue: The Other Side of the River
David Greengold had been born in that most American of communities,
Brooklyn, but at his Bar Mitzvah, something important had changed
in his life. After proclaiming "Today I am a man," he'd gone to the
celebration party afterwards and met some family members who'd
flown in from Israel. His uncle Moses was a very prosperous dealer
in diamonds there. David's own father had seven retail jewelry
stores, the flagship of which was on Fortieth Street in
While his father and his uncle talked business over California
wine, David had ended up with his first cousin, Daniel. His elder
by ten years, Daniel had just begun work for the Mossad, Israel's
main foreign-intelligence agency, and, a quintessential newbie, he
had regaled his cousin with stories. Daniel's obligatory military
service had been with the Israeli paratroopers, and he'd made
eleven jumps, and had seen some action in the 1967 Six Day War. For
him, it had been a happy war, with no serious casualties in his
company, and just enough kills to make it seem to have been a
sporting adventure—a hunting trip against game that was
dangerous, but not overly so, with a conclusion that had fitted
very well indeed with his prewar outlook and expectations.
The stories had provided a vivid contrast to the gloomy TV coverage
of Vietnam that led off every evening news broadcast then, and with
the enthusiasm of his newly-reaffirmed religious identity, David
had decided on the spot to emigrate to his Jewish homeland as soon
as he graduated from high school. His father, who'd served in the
U.S. Second Armored Division in the Second World War, and on the
whole found the adventure less than pleasing, had been even less
happy by the possibility of his son's going to an Asian jungle to
fight a war for which neither he nor any of his acquaintances had
much enthusiasm—and so, when graduation came, young David
flew El Al to Israel and really never looked back. He brushed up on
his Hebrew, served his uniformed time, and then, like his cousin,
he was recruited by the Mossad.
In this line of work, he'd done well, so well that today he was the
Station Chief in Rome, an assignment of no small importance. His
cousin Daniel, meanwhile, had left and gone back to the family
business, which paid far better than a civil servant's wage .
Running the Mossad Station in Rome kept him busy. He had three
full-time intelligence officers under his command, and they took in
a goodly quantity of information. Some of this information came
from an agent they called Hassan. He was Palestinian by ancestry,
and had good connections in the PFLP, the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, and the things he learned there he shared
with his enemies, for money—enough money, in fact, to finance
a comfortable flat a kilometer from the Italian parliament
building. David was making a pickup today.
The location was one he'd used before, the men's room of the
Ristorante Giovanni near the foot of the Spanish Steps. First
taking the time to enjoy a lunch of Veal Francese—it was
superb here—he finished his white wine and then rose to
collect his package. The dead drop was on the underside of the
left-most urinal, a theatrical choice, but it had the advantage of
never being inspected or cleaned. A steel plate had been glued
there, and even had it been noticed it would have looked innocent
enough, since the plate bore the embossed name of the manufacturer,
and a number that meant nothing at all. Approaching it, he decided
to take advantage of the opportunity by doing what men usually do
with a urinal, and, while engaged, he heard the door creak open.
Whoever it was took no interest in him, however, but, just to make
sure, he dropped his cigarette pack, and as he bent down to
retrieve it with his right hand his left snatched the magnetic
package off its hiding place. It was good fieldcraft, just like a
professional magician's, attracting attention with the one hand and
getting the work done with the other.
Except in this case it didn't work. Scarcely had he made the pickup
when someone bumped into him from behind.
"Excuse me, old man—signore, that is," the voice corrected
itself in what sounded like Oxford English. Just the sort of thing
to make a civilized man feel at ease with a situation.
Greengold didn't even respond, just turned to his right to wash his
hands and take his leave. He made it to the sink, and turned on the
water when he looked in the mirror.
Most of the time, the brain works faster than the hands. This time
he saw the blue eyes of the man who had bumped into him. They were
ordinary enough, but their expression was not. By the time his mind
had commanded his body to react, the man's left hand had reached
forward to grab his forehead, and something cold and sharp bit into
the back of his neck, just below the skull. His head was pulled
sharply backward, easing the passage of the knife into his spinal
cord, severing it completely.
Death did not come instantly. His body collapsed when all of the
electrochemical commands to his muscles ceased. Along with that
went all feeling. Some distant fiery sensations at his neck were
all that remained, and the shock of the moment didn't allow them to
grow into serious pain. He tried to breathe, but couldn't comprend
that he would never do that again. The man turned him around like a
department store mannequin and carried him to the toilet stall. All
he could do now was look and think. He saw the face, but it meant
nothing to him. The face looked back, regarding him as a thing, an
object, without even the dignity of hatred. Helplessly, David
scanned with his eyes as he was set down on the toilet. The man
appeared to reach into his coat to steal his wallet. Was that what
this was, just a robbery? A robbery of a senior Mossad officer? Not
possible. Then the man grabbed David by the hair to lift up his
"Salaam aleikum," his killer said: Peace be unto you. So,
this was an Arab? He didn't look the least bit Arabic. The
puzzlement must have been evident on his face.
"Did you really trust Hassan, Jew?" the man asked. But he displayed
no satisfaction in his voice. The emotionless delivery proclaimed
contempt. In his last moments of life, before his brain died from
lack of oxygen, David Greengold realized that he'd fallen for the
oldest of espionage traps, the False Flag. Hassan had given him
information so as to be able to identify him, to draw him out. Such
a stupid way to die. There was time left for only one more
The killer made sure his hands were clean, and checked his
clothing. But knife thrusts like this one didn't cause much in the
way of bleeding. He pocketed the wallet, and the dead-drop package,
and after adjusting his clothing made his way out. He stopped at
his table to leave twenty-three Euros for his own meal, including
only a few cents for the tip. But he would not be coming back.
Finished with Giovanni's, he walked across the square. He'd noticed
a Brioni's store on his way in, and he felt the need for a new
Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, is not located in the
Pentagon. The largest office building in the world has room for the
Army, Navy, and Air Force, but somehow or other the Marines got
left out, and have to satisfy themselves with their own building
complex called the Navy Annex, a quarter of a mile away on Lee
Highway in Arlington, Virginia. It isn't that much of a sacrifice.
The Marines have always been something of a stepchild of the
American military, technically a subordinate part of the Navy,
where their original utility was to be the Navy's private army,
thus precluding the need to embark soldiers on warships, since the
Army and the Navy were never supposed to be friendly.
Over time, the Marine Corps became a rationale unto itself, for
more than a century the only American land fighting force that
foreigners ever saw. Absolved of the need to worry about heavy
logistics, or even medical personnel—they had the squids to
handle that for them—every Marine was a rifleman, and a
forbidding, sobering sight to anyone who did not have a warm spot
in his heart for the United States of America. For this reason, the
Marines are respected, but not always beloved, among their
colleagues in America's service. Too much show, too much swagger,
and too highly developed a sense of public relations for the more
The Marine Corps acts like its own little army, of course—it
even has its own air force, small, but possessed of sharp
fangs—and that now included a chief of intelligence, though
some uniformed personnel regarded that as a contradiction in terms.
The Marine intelligence headquarters was a new establishment, part
of the Green Machine's effort to catch up with the rest of the
services. Called the M-2— "2" being the numerical identifier
of someone in the information business—the chief's name was
Major General Terry Broughton, a short, compact professional
infantryman who'd been stuck with this job in order to bring a
little reality to the spook trade: the Corps had decided to
remember that at the end of the paper trail was a man with a rifle
who needed good information in order to stay alive. It was just one
more secret of the Corps that the native intelligence of its
personnel was second to none—even to the computer wizards of
the Air Force whose attitude was that anyone able to fly an
airplane just had to be smarter than anybody else. Eleven
months from now, Broughton was in line to take command of the
Second Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The
welcome news had just arrived a week before, and he was still in
the best of good moods from it.
That was good news for Captain Brian Caruso as well, for whom an
audience with a general officer was, if not exactly frightening,
certainly reason for a little circumspection. He was wearing his
Class-A olive-colored uniform, complete to the Sam Browne belt, and
all the ribbons to which he was entitled, which wasn't all that
many, though some of them were kind of pretty, as well as his gold
parachute-jumper's wings, and a collection of marksmanship awards
large enough to impress even a lifelong riflemen like General
The M-2 rated a lieutenant-colonel office boy, plus a black female
gunnery sergeant as a personal secretary. It all struck the young
captain as odd, but nobody had ever accused the Corps of logic,
Caruso reminded himself. As they liked to say: two hundred thirty
years of tradition untrammeled by progress.
"The General will see you now, Captain," she said, looking up from
the phone on her desk.
"Thank you, Gunny," Caruso said, coming to his feet and heading for
the door, which the sergeant held open for him.
Broughton was exactly what Caruso had expected. A whisker under six
feet, he had the sort of chest that might turn away a high-speed
bullet. His hair was a tiny bit more than stubble. As with most
Marines, a bad hair day was what happened when it got to half an
inch, and required a trip to the barber. The general looked up from
his paperwork and looked his visitor up and down with cold hazel
Caruso did not salute. Like naval officers, Marines do not salute
unless under arms or "covered" with a uniform cap. The visual
inspection lasted about three seconds, which only felt like a week
"Good morning, sir."
"Have a seat, Captain," The general pointed to a leather-covered
Caruso did sit down, but remained at the position of attention,
bent legs and all.
"Know why you're here?" Broughton asked.
"No, sir, they didn't tell me that."
"How do you like Force Recon?"
"I like it just fine, sir," Caruso replied. "I think I have the
best NCOs in the whole Corps, and the work keeps me
"You did a nice job in Afghanistan, says here." Broughton held up a
folder with red-and-white-striped tape on the edges. That denoted
top-secret material. But special-operations work often fell into
that category, and, sure as hell, Caruso's Afghanistan job had not
been something for the NBC Nightly News.
"It was fairly exciting, sir."
"Good work, says here, getting all your men out alive."
"General, that's mostly because of that SEAL corpsman with us.
Corporal Ward got shot up pretty bad, but Petty Officer Randall
saved his life, and that's for sure. I put him in for a decoration.
Hope he gets it."
"He will," Broughton assured him. "And so will you."
"Sir, I just did my job," Caruso protested. "My men did
"And that's the sign of a good young officer," the M-2 cut him off.
"I read your account of the action, and I read Gunny Sullivan's,
too. He says you did just fine for a young officer in his first
combat action." Gunnery Sergeant Joe Sullivan had smelled the smoke
before, in Lebanon and Kuwait, and a few other places that had
never made the TV news. "Sullivan worked for me once," Broughton
informed his guest. "He's due for promotion."
Caruso bobbed his head. "Yes, sir. He's sure enough ready for a
step up in the world."
"I've seen your fit-rep on him." The M-2 tapped another folder,
this one not with TS formatting. "Your treatment of your men is
generous in its praise, Captain. Why?"
That made Caruso blink. "Sir, they did very well. I could not have
expected more under any circumstances. I'll take that bunch of
Marines up against anybody in the world. Even the new kids can all
make sergeant someday, and two of them have 'gunny' written all
over them. They work hard, and they're smart enough that they start
doing the right thing before I have to tell them. At least one of
them is officer material. Sir, those are my people, and I am damned
lucky to have them."
"And you trained them up pretty well," Broughton added.
"That's my job, sir."
"Not anymore, Captain."
"Excuse me, sir? I have another fourteen months with the battalion,
and my next job hasn't been determined yet." He'd happily stay in
Second Force Recon forever. Caruso figured he'd screen for major
soon, and maybe jump to battalion S-3, operations officer for the
division's reconnaissance battalion.
"That Agency guy who went into the mountains with you, how was he
to work with?"
"James Hardesty, says he used to be in the Army Special Forces. Age
forty or so, but he's pretty fit for an older guy, speaks two of
the local languages. Doesn't wet his pants when bad things happen.
He—well, he backed me up pretty well."
The TS folder went up again in the M-2's hands. "He says here you
saved his bacon in that ambush."
"Sir, nobody looks smart getting into an ambush in the first place.
Mr. Hardesty was reconnoitering forward with Corporal Ward while I
was getting the satellite radio set up. The bad guys were in a
pretty clever little spot, but they tipped their hand. They opened
up too soon on Mr. Hardesty, missed him with their first burst, and
we maneuvered uphill around them. They didn't have good enough
security out. Gunny Sullivan took his squad right, and when he got
in position, I took my bunch up the middle. It took a total of ten
to fifteen minutes, and then Gunny Sullivan got our target, took
him right in the head from ten meters. We wanted to take him alive,
but that wasn't possible the way things played out." Caruso
shrugged. Superiors could generate officers, but not the exigencies
of the moment, and the man had had no intention of spending time in
American captivity, and it was hard to put the bag on someone like
that. The final score had been one badly shot-up Marine, and
sixteen dead Arabs, plus two live captives for the Intel pukes to
chat with. It had ended up being more productive than anyone had
expected. The Afghans were brave enough, but they weren't
madmen—or, more precisely, they chose martyrdom only on their
"Lessons learned?" Broughton asked.
"There is no such thing as too much training, sir, or being in too
good a shape. The real thing is a lot messier than exercises. Like
I said, the Afghans are brave enough, but they are not trained. And
you can never know which ones are going to slug it out, and which
ones are going to cave. They taught us at Quantico that you have to
trust your instincts, but they don't issue instincts to you, and
you can't always be sure if you're listening to the right voice or
not." Caruso shrugged, but he just went ahead and spoke his mind.
"I guess it worked out okay for me and my Marines, but I can't
really say I know why."
"Don't think too much, Captain. When the shit hits the fan, you
don't have time to think it all the way through. You think
beforehand. It's in how you train your people, and assign
responsibilities to them. You prepare your mind for action, but you
never think you know what form the action is going to take. In any
case, you did everything pretty well. You impressed this Hardesty
guy—and by the way, he is a fairly serious customer. That's
how this happened," Broughton concluded.
"Excuse me, sir?"
"The Agency wants to talk to you," the M-2 announced. "They're
doing a talent hunt, and your name came up."
"To do what, sir?"
"Didn't tell me that. They're looking for people who can work in
the field. I don't think it's espionage. Probably the paramilitary
side of the house. I'd guess that's the new counterterror shop. I
can't say I'm pleased to lose a promising young Marine. However, I
have no say in the matter. You are free to decline the offer, but
you do have to go up and talk to them beforehand."
"I see." He didn't, really.
"Maybe somebody reminded them of another ex-Marine who worked out
fairly well up there..." Broughton half observed.
"Uncle Jack, you mean? Jesus—excuse me, sir, but I've been
dodging that ever since I showed up at the Basic School. I'm just
one more Marine O-3, sir. I'm not asking for anything else."
"Good," was all Broughton felt like saying. He saw before him a
very promising young officer who'd read the Marine Corps
Officer's Guide front to back, and hadn't forgotten any of the
important parts. If anything he was a touch too earnest, but he'd
been the same way once himself. "Well, you're due up there in two
hours. Some guy named Pete Alexander, another ex-Special Forces
guy. Helped run the Afghanistan operation for the Agency back in
the 1980s. Not a bad guy, so I've heard, but he doesn't want to
grow his own talent. Watch your wallet, Captain," he said in
"Yes, sir," Caruso promised. He came to his feet, into a position
The M-2 graced his guest with a smile. "Semper Fi, son."
"Aye, aye, sir." Caruso made his way out of the office, nodded to
the gunny, never said a word to the half-colonel, who hadn't
bothered looking up, and headed downstairs , wondering what the
hell he was getting into.
Hundreds of miles away, another man named Caruso was thinking
the same thing.
The FBI had made its reputation as one of America's premier
law-enforcement agencies by investigating interstate kidnappings,
beginning soon after passage of the Lindbergh Law in the 1930s. Its
success in closing such cases had largely put an end to
kidnapping-for-money—at least for smart criminals. The Bureau
closed every single one of those cases, and professional
criminals finally had caught on that this form of crime was a
sucker's game. And so it had remained for years, until kidnappers
with objectives other than money had decided to delve into
And those people were much harder to catch.
Penelope Davidson had vanished on her way to kindergarten that very
morning. Her parents had called the local police within an hour
after her disappearance, and soon thereafter the local sheriff's
office had called the FBI. Procedure allowed the FBI to get
involved as soon as it was possible for the victim to have been
taken across a state line. Georgetown, Alabama, was just half an
hour from the Mississippi state line, and so the Birmingham office
of the FBI had immediately jumped on the case like a cat on a
mouse. In FBI nomenclature, a kidnapping case is called a "7," and
nearly every agent in the office got into his car and headed
southwest for the small farming-market town. In the mind of each
agent, however, was the dread of a fool's errand. There was a clock
on kidnapping cases. Most victims were thought to be sexually
exploited and killed within four to six hours. Only a miracle could
get the child back alive that quickly, and miracles didn't happen
But most of them were men with wives and children themselves, and
so they worked as though there were a chance. The office
ASAC—Assistant Special Agent in Charge—was the first to
talk to the local sheriff, whose name was Paul Turner. The Bureau
regarded him as an amateur in the business of investigations, out
of his depth, and Turner thought so as well. The thought of a raped
and murdered little girl in his jurisdiction turned his stomach,
and he welcomed federal assistance. Photos were passed out to every
man with a badge and a gun. Maps were consulted. The local cops and
FBI Special Agents headed to the area between the Davidson house
and the public school to which she'd walked five blocks every
morning for two months. Everyone who lived on that pathway was
interviewed. Back in Birmingham, computer checks were made of
possible sex offenders living within a hundred-mile radius, and
agents and Alabama state troopers officers were sent to interview
them, too. Every house was searched, usually with permission of the
owner, but often enough without, because the local judges took a
stern view of kidnapping.
For Special Agent Dominic Caruso, it wasn't his first major case,
but it was his first "7," and while he was unmarried and childless,
the thought of a missing child caused his blood first to chill, and
then to boil. Her "official" kindergarten photo showed blue eyes
and blond hair turning brown, and a cute little smile. This "7"
wasn't about money. The family was working class and ordinary. The
father, was a lineman for the local electric coop, the mother
worked part-time as a nurse's aide in the county hospital. Both
were churchgoing Methodists, and neither, on first inspection,
seemed a likely suspect for child abuse, though that would be
looked into, too. A senior agent from the Birmingham Field Office
was skilled in profiling, and his initial read was frightening:
this unknown subject could be a serial kidnapper and killer,
someone who found children sexually attractive, and who knew that
the safest way to commit this crime was to kill the victim
He was out there somewhere, Caruso knew. Dominic Caruso was a young
agent, hardly a year out of Quantico, but already in his second
field assignment—FBI agents had no more choice in picking
their assignments than a sparrow in a hurricane. His initial
assignment had been in Newark, New Jersey, all of seven months, but
Alabama was somewhat more to his taste. The weather was often
miserable, but it wasn't a beehive like that dirty city. His
assignment now was to patrol the area west of Georgetown, to scan
and wait for some hard bit of information. He wasn't experienced
enough to be an effective interviewer. The skill took years to
develop, though Caruso thought he was pretty smart, and his college
degree was in psychology.
Look for a car with a little girl in it, he told himself,
one not in a car seat? he wondered. It might give her
a better way to look out of the car, and maybe wave for help... So,
no, the subject would probably have her tied up, cuffed, or wrapped
with duct tape, and probably gagged. Some little girl, helpless
and terrified. The thought made his hands tighten on the wheel.
The radio crackled.
"Birmingham Base to all '7' units. We have a report that the '7'
suspect might be driving a white utility van, probably a Ford,
white in color, a little dirty. Alabama tags. If you see a vehicle
matching that description, call it in, and we'll get the local PD
to check it out."
Which meant, don't flash your gum-ball light and pull him over
yourself unless you have to, Caruso thought. It was time to do some
If I were one of those creatures, where would I be...?
Caruso slowed down. He thought... a place with decent road access.
Not a main road per se... a decent secondary road, with a turn off
to something more private. Easy in, easy out. A place where the
neighbors couldn't see or hear what he's up to. . .
He picked up his microphone
"Caruso to Birmingham Base."
"Yeah, Dominic," responded the agent on the radio desk. The FBI
radios were encrypted, and couldn't be listened into by anyone
without a good descrambler.
"The white van. How solid is that?"
"An elderly woman says that when she was out getting her paper, she
saw a little girl, right description, talking to some guy next to a
white van. The possible subject is male Caucasian, undetermined
age, no other description. Ain't much, Dom, but it's all we got,"
Special Agent Sandy Ellis reported.
"How many child abusers in the area?" Caruso asked next.
"A total of nineteen on the computer. We got people talking to all
of them. Nothing developed yet. All we got, man."
"Roger, Sandy. Out."
More driving, more scanning. He wondered if this was anything like
his brother Brian had experienced in Afghanistan: alone, hunting
the enemy... He started looking for dirt paths off the road, maybe
for one with recent tire tracks.
He looked down at the wallet-sized photo again. A sweet-faced
little girl, just learning the ABC's. A child for whom the world
has always been a safe place, ruled by Mommy and Daddy, who went to
Sunday school and made caterpillars out of egg cartons and pipe
cleaners, and learned to sing "Jesus loves me, this I know / 'Cause
the Bible tells me so..." His head swiveled left and right. There,
about a hundred yards away, a dirt road leading into the woods. As
he slowed, he saw that the path took a gentle S-curve, but the
trees were thin, and he could see...
. . . cheap frame house... and next to it... the corner of a van...
? But this one was more beige than white...
Well, the little old lady who'd seen the little girl and the
truck... how far away had it been... sunlight or shadows... ? So
many things, so many inconstants, so many variables. As good as the
FBI Academy was, it couldn't prepare you for everything—hell,
not even close to everything. That's what they told you
too—told you that you had to trust your instinct and
But Caruso had hardly a year's experience.
He stopped the car.
"Caruso to Birmingham Base."
"Yeah, Dominic," Sandy Ellis responded.
Caruso first radioed in his location. "I'm going 10-7 to walk in
and take a look."
"Roger that, Dom. Do you request backup?"
"Negative, Sandy. It's probably nothing, just going to knock on the
door and talk to the occupant."
"Okay, I'll stand by."
Caruso didn't have a portable radio—that was for local cops,
not the Bureau—and so was now out of touch, except for his
cell phone. His personal sidearm was a Smith & Wesson 1076,
snug in its holster on his right hip. He stepped out of the car,
and closed the door without latching it, to avoid making noise.
People always turned to see what made the noise of a slammed car
He was wearing a darker than olive green suit, a fortunate
circumstance, Caruso thought, heading right. First he'd look at the
van. He walked normally, but his eyes were locked on the windows of
the shabby house, halfway hoping to see a face, but, on reflection,
glad that none appeared.
The Ford van was about six years old, he judged. Minor dings and
dents on the bodywork. The driver had backed it in. That put the
sliding door close to the house, the sort of thing a carpenter or
plumber might do. Or a man moving a small, resisting body. He kept
his right hand free, and his coat unbuttoned. Quick-draw was
something every cop in the world practiced, often in front of a
mirror, though only a fool fired as part of the motion, because you
just couldn't hit anything that way.
Caruso took his time. The window was down on the driver-side door.
The interior was almost entirely empty, bare unpainted metal floor,
the spare tire and jack... and a large roll of duct tape...
There was a lot of that stuff around. The free end of the roll was
turned down, as though to make sure he'd be able to pull some off
the roll without having to pick at it with his fingernails. A lot
of people did that, too. There was, finally, a throw rug,
tucked—no, taped, he saw, to the floor, just behind
the right-side passenger seat... and was that some tape dangling
from the metal seat framing? What might that mean?
Why there? Caruso wondered, but suddenly the skin on his
forearms started tingling. It was a first for that sensation. He'd
never made an arrest himself, had not yet been involved in a major
felony case, at least not to any sort of conclusion. He'd worked
fugitives in Newark, briefly, and made a total of three collars,
always with another, more experienced agent to take the lead. He
was more experienced now, a tiny bit seasoned... But not all that
much, he reminded himself.
Caruso's head turned to the house. His mind was moving quickly now.
What did he really have? Not much. He'd looked into an ordinary
light truck with no direct evidence at all in it, just an empty
truck with a roll of duct tape and a small rug on the steel
The young agent took the cell phone out of his pocket and
speed-dialed the office.
"FBI. Can I help you?" a female voice asked.
"Caruso for Ellis." That moved things quickly.
"What you got, Dom?"
"White Ford Econoline van, Alabama tag Echo Romeo Six Five Zero
One, parked at my location. Sandy—"
"I'm going to knock on this guy's door."
"You want backup?"
Caruso took a second to think. "Affirmative—roger
"There's a county mountie about ten minutes away. Stand by," Ellis
"Roger, standing by."
But a little girl's life was on the line...
He headed toward the house, careful to keep out of the sightlines
from the nearest windows. That's when time stopped.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the scream. It was
an awful, shrill sound, like someone looking at Death himself. His
brain processed the information, and he suddenly found that his
automatic pistol was in his hands, just in front of his sternum,
pointed up into the sky, but in his hands even so. It had been a
woman's scream, he realized, and something just went click inside
As quickly as he could move without making much noise, he was on
the porch, under the uneven, cheaply made roof. The front door was
mostly wire screening to keep the bugs out. It needed painting, but
so did the whole house. Probably a rental, and a cheap one at that.
Looking through the screen he could see what seemed to be a
corridor, leading left to the kitchen and right, to a bathroom. He
could see into it. A white porcelain toilet and a sink were all
that was visible from this perspective.
He wondered if he had probable cause to enter the house, and
instantly decided that he had enough. He pulled the door open and
slipped in as stealthily as he could manage. A cheap and dirty rug
leading down the corridor. He headed that way, gun up, senses
sandpapered to ultimate alertness. As he moved, the angles of
vision changed. The kitchen became invisible, but he could see into
the bathroom better...
Penny Davidson was in the bathtub, naked, china blue eyes wide
open, and her throat cut from ear to ear, with a whole body's
supply of blood covering her flat chest and the sides of the tub.
So violently had her neck been slashed that it lay open like a
Strangely, Caruso didn't react physically. His eyes recorded the
snapshot image, but for the moment all he thought about was that
the man who'd done it was alive, and just a few feet away.
He realized that the noise he heard came from the left and ahead.
The living room. A television. The subject would be in there. Might
there be a second one? He didn't have time for that, nor did he
particularly care at the moment.
Slowly, carefully, his heart going like a trip hammer, he edged
forward and peeked around the corner. There he was, late thirties,
white male, hair thinning, watching the TV with rapt
attention—it was a horror movie, the scream must have come
from that—and sipping Miller Lite beer from an aluminum can.
His face was content and in no way aroused. He'd probably been
through that, Dominic thought. And right in front of
him—Jesus!—was a butcher knife, a bloody one, on the
coffee table. There was blood on his T-shirt, as if sprayed. From a
little girl's throat.
"The trouble with these mutts is that they never resist," an
instructor had told his class at the FBI Academy. "Oh, yeah,
they're John Wayne with an attitude when they have little kids in
their hands, but they don't resist armed cops—ever. And, you
know, that's a damned shame," the instructor had concluded.
You are not going in to jail today. The thought entered
Caruso's mind seemingly of its own accord. His right thumb pulled
back the spurless hammer until it clicked in place, putting his
sidearm fully in battery. His hands, he noted briefly, felt like
Just at the corner, where you turned left to enter the room was a
battered old end table. Octagonal in shape, atop it was a
transparent blue glass vase, a cheap one, maybe from the local
Kmart, probably intended for flowers, but none were there today.
Slowly, carefully, Caruso cocked his leg, then kicked the table
over. The glass vase shattered loudly on the wooden floor.
The subject started violently, and turned to see an unexpected
visitor in his house. His defensive response was instinctive rather
than reasoned—he grabbed for the butcher knife on the coffee
table. Caruso didn't even have time to smile, though he knew the
subject had made the final mistake of his life. It's regarded as
holy gospel in American police agencies that a man with a knife in
his hand less than twenty-one feet away is an immediate and lethal
threat. He even started to rise to his feet.
But he never made it.
Caruso's finger depressed the trigger of his Smith, sending the
first round straight through the subject's heart. Two more followed
in less than a second. His white T-shirt blossomed in red. He
looked down at his chest, then up at Caruso, total surprise on his
face, and then he sat back down, without speaking a word or crying
out in pain.
Caruso's next action was to reverse direction and check out the
house's only bedroom. Empty. So was the kitchen, the rear door
still locked from the inside. There came a moment's relief. Nobody
else in the house. He took another look at the kidnapper. The eyes
were still open. But Dominic had shot true. First he disarmed and
handcuffed the dead body, because that was how he'd been trained. A
check of the carotid pulse came next, but it was wasted energy. The
guy saw nothing except the front door of hell. Caruso pulled his
cell phone out and speed-dialed the office again.
"Dom?" Ellis asked when he got the phone.
"Yeah, Sandy, it's me. I just took him down."
"What? What do you mean?" Sandy Ellis asked urgently.
"The little girl, she's here, dead, throat cut. I came in, and the
guy came up at me with a knife. Took him down, man. He's dead, too,
dead as fuckin' hell."
"Jesus, Dominic! The county sheriff is just a couple of minutes
out. Stand by."
"Roger, standing by, Sandy."
Not another minute passed before he heard the sound of a siren.
Caruso went out on the porch. He decocked and holstered his
automatic, then he took his FBI credentials out of his coat pocket,
and held them up in his left hand as the sheriff approached, his
service revolver out.
"It's under control," Caruso announced in as calm a voice as he
could muster. He was pumped up now. He waved Sheriff Turner into
the house, but stayed outside by himself while the local cop went
inside. A minute or two later, the cop came back out, his own Smith
& Wesson holstered.
Turner was the Hollywood image of a southern sheriff, tall,
heavyset, with beefy arms, and a gun belt that dug deeply into his
waistline. Except he was black. Wrong movie.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Want to give me a minute?" Caruso took a deep breath and thought
for a moment how to tell the story. Turner's understanding of it
was important, because homicide was a local crime, and he had
jurisdiction over it.
"Yeah." Turner reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack
of Kools. He offered one to Caruso, who shook his head.
The young agent sat down on the unpainted wooden deck and tried to
put it all together in his head. What, exactly, had happened? What,
exactly, had he just done? And how, exactly, was he supposed to
explain it? The whispering part of his mind told him that he felt
no regret at all. At least not for the subject. For Penelope
Davidson—too damned late. An hour sooner? Maybe even a half
hour? That little girl would not be going home tonight, would
nevermore be tucked into bed by her mother, or hug her father. And
so Special Agent Dominic Caruso felt no remorse at all. Just regret
for being too slow.
"Can you talk?" Sheriff Turner asked.
"I was looking for a place like this one, and when I drove past, I
saw the van parked..." Caruso began. Presently he stood and led the
sheriff into the house to relate the other details.
"Anyway, I tripped over the table. He saw me, and went for his
knife, turned toward me—and so, I drew my pistol and shot the
bastard. Three rounds, I think."
"Uh-huh." Turner went over to the body. The subject hadn't bled
much. All three rounds had gone straight through the heart, ending
its ability to pump almost instantly.
Paul Turner wasn't anywhere nearly as dumb as he looked to a
government-trained agent. He looked at the body, and turned to look
back at the doorway from which Caruso had taken his shots. His eyes
measured distance and angle.
"So," the sheriff said, "you tripped on that end-table. The suspect
sees you, grabs his knife, and you, being in fear for your life,
take out your service pistol and take three quick shots,
"That's how it went down, yeah."
"Uh-huh," observed a man who got himself a deer almost every
Sheriff Turner reached into his right-side pants pocket and pulled
out his key chain. It was a gift from his father, a Pullman porter
on the old Illinois Central. It was am old-fashioned one, with a
1948 silver dollar soldered onto it, the old kind, about an inch
and a half across. He held it over the kidnapper's chest, and the
diameter of the old coin completely covered all three of the
entrance wounds. His eyes took a very skeptical look, but then they
drifted over towards the bathroom, and his eyes softened before he
spoke his verdict on the incident
"Then that's how we'll write it up. Nice shootin', boy."
Fully a dozen police and FBI vehicles appeared within as many
minutes. Soon thereafter came the lab truck from the Alabama
Department of Public Safety to perform the crime-scene
investigative work. A forensic photographer shot twenty-three rolls
of 400-speed color film. The knife was taken from the subject's
hand and bagged for fingerprints and blood-type matching with the
victim—it was all less than a formality, but criminal
procedure was especially strict in a murder case. Finally, the body
of the little girl was bagged and removed. Her parents would have
to identify her, but blessedly her face was reasonably
One of the last to arrive was Ben Harding, the Special Agent in
Charge of the Birmingham Field Office of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. An agent-involved shooting meant a formal report
from his desk to that of Director Dan Murray, a distant friend.
First, Harding came to make sure that Caruso was in decent physical
and psychological shape. Then he went to pay respects to Paul
Turner, and get his opinion of the shooting. Caruso watched from a
distance, and saw Turner gesture through the incident, accompanied
by nods from Harding. It was good that Sheriff Turner was giving
his official stamp of approval. A captain of state troopers
listened in as well, and he nodded, too.
The truth of the matter was that Dominic Caruso didn't really give
a damn. He knew he'd done the right thing, just an hour later that
it ought to have been. Finally, Harding came over to his young
"How you feeling, Dominic?"
"Slow," Caruso said. "Too damned slow—yeah, I know,
unreasonable to expect otherwise."
Harding grabbed his shoulder and shook it. "You could not have done
much better, kid." He paused. "How'd the shooting go down?"
Caruso repeated his story. It had almost acquired the firmness of
truth in his mind now. He could probably have spoken the exact
truth and not been hammered for it, Dom knew, but why take the
chance? It was, officially, a clean shoot, and that was enough, so
far as his Bureau file was concerned.
Harding listened, and nodded thoughtfully. There'd be paperwork to
complete and FedEx up the line to D.C. But it would not look bad in
the newspapers for an FBI agent to have shot and killed a kidnapper
the very day of the crime. They'd probably find evidence that this
was not the only such crime this mutt had committed. The house had
yet to be thoroughly searched. They're already found a digital
camera in the house, and it would surprise no one to see that the
mutt had a record of previous crimes on his Dell personal computer.
If so, Caruso had closed more than one case. If so, Caruso would
get a big gold star in his Bureau copybook.
Just how big, neither Harding nor Caruso could yet know. The talent
hunt was about to find Dominic Caruso, too.
And one other.
Excerpted from THE TEETH OF THE TIGER © Copyright 2003 by
Tom Clancy. Reprinted with permission by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a
member of Penguin Putnam Inc. All rights reserved.