ABOUT HOSTILE INTENT:
When a mysterious walk-in to the US embassy in Vienna claims to have critical information about a Russian intelligence operation, he raises eyebrows.
But when he asks for Matt Drake by name and calls himself the Irishman, he gets the DIA’s premier case officer on a one-way flight. Matt arrives to find Austria’s charming capital lousy with intelligence officers, all swirling around Nolan Burke—a onetime member of the real IRA. But before Matt can debrief Nolan, the Irishman is kidnapped by a Russian direct action team.
Now Matt must find a way to repay the debt of honor he owes Nolan while stopping World War III in the process.
EXCERPT OF HOSTILE INTENT:
Matthew? Is that you?"
"Yep," I said, holding the phone between my ear and shoulder as I packed my shooting gear into my range bag.
Even though our range time had been nearly complete before the interrupting phone call, Laila had been less than thrilled with our abrupt departure. She was now in the gun store attached to the range, expressing her annoyance in a manner designed to get my attention.
Shopping for a baby Glock to carry in her purse.
What a woman.
"Then use your man voice. I can barely hear you over this racket."
I paused in the middle of zipping the bag closed. The check-in guy had been kind, or terrified, enough to let me take the call in his office. The soundproofing in the door and walls rendered a silence absolute enough to hear my heartbeat.
"Where are you, Chief?" I said, dreading the answer.
"At a slam-poetry reading. At least, that's what the sign says. But none of it even rhymes. And don't get me started on the audience full of hipster jackasses. Cups of fufu coffee are the only thing slamming in this joint."
I could hear the disappointment in his voice even as I took a seat in the flimsy chair opposite the metal desk. Defense Intelligence Agency Branch Chief James Scott Glass, former Army Special Forces team sergeant and current night terror to jihadis everywhere, was attending a slam-poetry reading.
If this wasn't a sign of the apocalypse, I wasn't sure what was.
"Can you hear me now?" I said, shouting into the phone.
"No," James said. "Between the screaming from the stage and the yapping audience, I've been in firefights that were quieter. Wait one. QUIET."
The silence that greeted James's outburst made my soundproof room seem loud.
My boss certainly knew how to work a room.
"Speak, Matthew," James said, coming back on the line.
"Still here, Chief," I said.
I debated barking, but didn't. Mostly because I was an adult and whatever had James desperate enough to call me from a slam-poetry session probably wasn't a laughing matter. But also because even ten years into forced medical retirement, my boss was not a man to be trifled with.
"Good," James said. "I need you to come in. Now."
"I just landed last night. I haven't even been home for twelve hours. I'd remind you that I'm on vacation, but I suspect you're not familiar with the term. It's Sunday. Give me twenty-four hours with my wife, and I'll grab the direct to Washington Reagan tomorrow. I'll be in the office before lunch. The world's not gonna end today."
I thought it was a pretty good argument.
James didn't agree.
"You're not going to DC," James said. "Our embassy in Vienna had a walk-in."
Walk-in was slang for someone who came in off the street purporting to have information of interest to the US government. The vast majority of these folks were people hoping to trade something of minimal value for the ultimate prize-US citizenship. As such, walk-ins were normally relegated to the most junior CIA or DIA officer. But occasionally something of value did stroll in the door. If James was calling, I had to think the Vienna walk-in fell into this category.
"Can you give me any specifics?"
"Not over an open line. But I will say this-the walk-in asked for you. By name."
That was interesting, but not entirely unexpected. As an officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency, I ran and recruited assets the world over. While the goal of every recruitment was to snare an asset who produced meaningful intelligence for the duration of their career, this wasn't always the case. Sometimes an asset transitioned to a job without the requisite access. Sometimes they just stopped producing. When this happened, the asset was formally closed, but I always tried to part ways on good terms.
Every now and then, dormant assets found themselves in a position where they could again become useful. This was why I always provided mine with an email address and a phrase to employ if they needed to reestablish contact. These instructions didn't include plans to visit the American embassy, but the assets I ran were, by and large, intelligent men and women. If they believed that a crash meeting at the embassy was necessary, I wasn't going to second-guess them.
As embassies went, Vienna was one of the most crucial. Although the Cold War had ended more than thirty years ago, Vienna was still a city of spies. Its central European location made the Austrian capital a geographical crossroads between East and West. Vienna would be an ideal venue for a spy on the run to contact an old handler.
"Which of my aliases did the walk-in use?" I said.
"You're not listening, Matthew," James said. "He asked for you by name. Your true name."
I sucked in a breath, contemplating James's answer. Like any sane handler, I never operated under true name. If this man knew my identity, he merited my attention.
"What's his name?" I said.
"Wouldn't give one. Just a message. He said to tell you the Irishman was calling in a favor. Ring a bell?"
"I'm booking a ticket to Vienna," I said.
"No need. A Gulfstream's sitting on the tarmac at Austin-Bergstrom. Get moving."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Don Bentley is the New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy Target Acquired and the Matt Drake series (Without Sanction & The Outside Man). Don is a former FBI Special Agent, SWAT Team member, and Army Apache helicopter pilot.
Learn more at www.donbentleybooks.com.