Quinton Mann, a highly ranked CIA officer, is used to being called the Ice Man. He’s astounded to discover himself in a relationship with Mark Vincent, not because Vincent is a man, but because he’s a top-rated WBIS agent. There they are though, for a total of five glorious days. But when Mark uses the excuse of going to Massachusetts for his mother’s funeral to end their relationship, Quinn’s not buying it.
No one screws with Mark Vincent. Even Mark doesn't screw with himself. Once he realizes how close he's allowed Quinton Mann to get to him, he does what any self-respecting spy would do -- he makes tracks out of there. But Quinn does something no one else ever has -- he comes after Mark. Maybe this relationship thing with a spook isn’t such a bad idea.
Meanwhile, something strange is going on in the intelligence community worldwide. It takes Quinn’s disappearance while investigating a rogue antiterrorism organization that results in Mark making up his mind. Quinn may be a spook, but he’s Mark’s spook, dammit -- and once he gets Quinn home, he intends to keep him. He knows without a doubt he’ll find Quinn. The question is, will he find Quinn in time?
A younger man had joined the one behind the desk and was whispering in his ear. I was close enough to hear the panic in his voice, even if I couldn’t make out his words. The white-haired man’s eyes narrowed.
“You are not who you say you are!”
“I’m not?” I smiled at him easily. “My mother might be surprised to learn of this.”
The shorter one moved so fast I didn’t even see it coming. The barrel of my Smith and Wesson slammed me high on my cheekbone, and I staggered back.
“You will speak to M. l’Administrateur with respect, cochon!”
I straightened and shrugged to settle my suit jacket over my shoulders. “Was that necessary? We are supposed to be civilized, after all.” Blood began a slow crawl down my cheek. “You have my weapons; you know I’m unarmed. May I get a handkerchief from my pocket?”
The Administrator nodded.
I took out a handkerchief and held it to my cheek, which was beginning to throb so hard I wondered if it was fractured.
The younger man leaned down and whispered frantically once more.
The Administrator smiled, a twist of the lips that wasn’t even a distant cousin to humor. His gaze grew hooded. “So you are Quinton Mann. I have heard of your expertise in the area of operational targeting.”
My gaze flew to the young man, who shifted uncomfortably. How did he know me? His eyes dropped away from mine, and he worried his lower lip until I thought he would draw blood.
“I’m flattered. I had no idea my reputation preceded me.”
“Martyn here has told me of you. He has been helpful in the selection of operatives for Prinzip, but a man of your caliber would be of even more use in --” His eyes clouded for a moment as if recalling something that saddened him. “-- in my organization. You see, I need capable operatives who do not require a three year training period. After the error in trying to collect recruits from the Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security, I feel it would be wiser staying with the more mainstream agencies.”
“Meaning the CIA?”
“I do not restrict myself in my preferences, Mr. Mann. The Russians, the British, the Israelis, the Germans, Italians and French, they also proudly give Prinzip their allegiance. My hope is that you’ll be reasonable about this.”
“What is it that you would have me do?”
The Administrator sat back in his chair and folded his hands over his abdomen. “The recruiting is taking longer than I had anticipated. Martyn is familiar with his former colleagues, but you, as a senior staff member, will be able to assign the most accomplished of the younger men and women who have applied to the Company to the European sector, and no one will think anything of it.”
“You don’t think they’ll question me when these men and women don’t return home?”
He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I have every confidence in you, Mr. Mann. I’m sure you’ll find a way to talk yourself out of any situation that might arise.”
“Please, Mr. Mann.” The younger man was pale and sweating. Was he another Louis Buonfiglio, someone who never should have been recruited by the Company? “You’ll stay alive!”
“Of course, that is always an imperative. So I help you. I betray my country for ... how much will this earn me?” I blotted my cheek again. “What’s a conscience worth these days?” I stared at Martyn.
“I’m sure I can make it worth your while.” The Administrator was totally oblivious to the currents running between Martyn and me.
“Mr. Mann doesn’t need money; he’s wealthy!” The younger man now looked sick, and he blurted, “He’s not going to do it! I can tell! I can tell! He’s going to turn me ... us in! I can’t survive in prison! They’ll do unspeakable things to me! Richard, please, you can’t let him ...!”
The Administrator frowned at him. “I’m afraid you’re right, young Martyn. Especially now, since you’ve prematurely revealed my identity to him. Etienne.” He nodded, and I was suddenly aware of a hard body at my back. While I’d been distracted, the big man had moved behind me. Arms like steel bands imprisoned mine. His smaller partner laughed nastily and came closer. I was helpless. The unmistakable odor of chloroform filled my nose and throat as the chemical-soaked cloth was pressed over the lower portion of my face.
Mark would be disappointed that I’d allowed myself to be so easily taken. That was my last thought before I sagged in the big man’s arms and oblivion overtook me.