The first novel featuring CIA agent Blaine McCracken from the USA Today–bestselling author, “one of the best all-out action writers in the business” (Los Angeles Review of Books).
A space shuttle disappears during a routine repair mission, 180 miles above Earth’s surface. An intelligence operative with a dark secret is murdered, his car set ablaze, while he is in the middle of fulfilling a depraved fantasy. And a reporter receives a message from a dying man that suggests the organization responsible may be one of the world’s most prestigious corporations.
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The Omega Command
By Jon Land
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1986 Jon Land
All rights reserved.
God rest ye merry, gentlemen Let nothing you dismay
THE CAROLERS DOMINATED the corner, flanking a smiling Santa Claus, who was ringing his bell over a noticeably empty urn. Perhaps Santa's smile had shrunk since the day had begun. Perhaps not. All that could be said for sure was that his beard was dirtier, grayer, and thinner from the children pulling at it and coming away with polyester strands.
The New York City streets were icy and slick. The storm that had battered the New England coast had spared the city its brunt, touching it only with a graze. The light snow that had been falling steadily for hours now added to the difficulties of the cars struggling to negotiate over it. With only eight shopping days left until Christmas, New Yorkers were not likely to let the weather beat them.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy Comfort and joy
A red Porsche snailed down the street, grinding to a stop before Santa and the carolers. The driver beeped the horn, slid down the passenger window. Santa came over and the man handed him a ten.
"Merry Christmas, sir!" said Santa.
Easton simply smiled. He was in the mood to be generous. His channels had come through with an early Christmas present. Three months of grueling, tedious, and sometimes dangerous work had paid off beautifully.
The Santa Claus thanked him again, backing away from the Porsche. Easton hit a button and the window glided back into place. The Porsche started forward again. Easton shuddered from the new cold and flipped the heater switch up a notch. He down-shifted well in advance of a red light, realizing his hand was trembling slightly over the shift knob. He had stowed the microfiche within it, and just thinking of its contents brought his breathing up a notch with the heater. The windshield began to fog. Easton swiped at it with his sleeve. The light turned green and the Porsche fishtailed through the intersection. He was almost to his destination.
The right thing, of course, would be to deliver the microfiche immediately. But his superiors would have to wait, for Easton had his therapy to consider. On the road for nearly twelve weeks, he had been forced to miss four of his sessions. He could see the brownstone now and the doorman standing before it. His stomach fluttered with anticipation. Already he felt more relaxed.
Traffic snarled and the Porsche skidded briefly before finding pavement. Snow was collecting on the windshield again and Easton switched the wipers back on. Traffic started forward in front of him, and Easton eased the Porsche to the right, sliding to the curb where the doorman stood waiting. The brownstone stood beside several others like it, an ordinary sight from the outside.
The doorman opened his door for him. "Mr. Easton, how good to see you back," he said, signaling for a parking attendant.
Easton tipped the doorman with the usual amount, not at all uncomfortable with the use of his real name. Names meant nothing at the brownstone, professions even less. Everything was done with maximum discretion. Senators, mayors, businessmen—the brownstone was a place where they could leave their professions at the front door.
Easton watched his Porsche pull away toward the parking garage and then stepped through the door the doorman was holding for him. An impeccably attired woman was waiting inside.
"Ah, Mr. Easton, it's been too long."
"I've been traveling. Work, you understand."
"Of course." The woman smiled graciously. She was striking for her age, which was at least sixty. Her face showed barely a wrinkle, and her dull blond hair fell easily just below her ears. She was a walking testament to modern cosmetics and surgery. Madame Rosa had a role to play and she had to look the part. "I've reserved your usual room."
"And the subjects?" Easton asked eagerly.
Madame Rosa smiled again. "I'm sure you'll be pleased." She took his coat and led him toward the stairs. "Are any refreshments in order?"
"Hashish, marijuana, cocaine?"
Madame Rosa scolded herself. "Ah, yes, how silly of me. Dulls the reflexes, of course. We can't have that, can we?" Easton just looked at her.
Madame Rosa stopped halfway up the first staircase. "Stop and see me on your way out. I'd appreciate your evaluation of our new subjects."
Easton nodded and continued on alone. No mention had been made of price. There was simply an account to be settled at regular intervals, always in cash and never with argument. Easton reached the third floor, turned right, and entered the second room down.
The smell of sweet incense flooded his nostrils. The room was dimly lit, but Easton made out the two figures lying naked on the bed. A boy and a girl—twins. Just as he had ordered. Madame Rosa had outdone herself this time. Easton began stripping off his clothes. He was trembling, already aroused.
The girl moved from the bed and helped him with his pants, unzipping his leather boots and caressing his legs. She was thirteen or thereabouts, a dark-haired beauty with tiny mounds where her breasts would soon be. Her small nipples stood erect.
Her male twin was just as beautiful, dark hair cut not as long but smothering his ears and falling easily to his shoulders. He lay on the bed, legs spread, fondling himself, dark eyes glowing in the soft light.
Easton let himself be led by the girl onto the huge bed, careful to toss his shoulder holster to the side so it would be easily within reach. He fell backward on the sheets and settled next to the naked boy. The boy rolled on top of him, first hugging, then licking, then sliding down till his mouth neared Easton's groin.
Easton felt the boy take him inside at the same time the girl parted his lips with hers. He groped for her thin buttocks and squeezed them to him, vaguely conscious of the boy's head rising and falling, taking more of him in with each thrust. He wanted both of them, he wanted all of them. There was no time limit, would be no rude interruptions. They were his for as long as he wanted them. Madame Rosa's never failed to satisfy.
Easton's right hand wandered toward the girl's small, hairless vagina, his left finding the boy's long hair and caressing it as his head rose and fell rose and fell rose and fell. Easton felt the pleasure mounting everywhere, surging, yet he still had the sensation of something terribly wrong an instant before the door shattered inward.
At that same instant Easton's metamorphosis back to himself was complete. He pushed the girl from him and went for his gun. But two figures had already stormed into the room with weapons blasting. The boy's naked body absorbed the first barrage, red punctures dotting his flesh. The girl's head exploded next to him, and Easton felt a volley of bullets pierce his abdomen as his hand closed on his pistol.
He might have lifted it from the holster had not the boy's bloodied corpse collapsed atop him, pinning his arms. The boy's sightless eyes locked on his, and Easton felt the bursts of pain everywhere the pleasure had been only seconds before. He was still trying for his gun, finding it just wasn't there anymore, as his breath rushed out and all that remained was the boy's dead stare before oblivion took him.
"I've already been briefed on this mess," the President said, striding grimly into the Oval Office. "I want to know what's being done to clean it up."
The two men seated before his desk rose as he approached it. CIA director Barton McCall was the more nervous looking of the two. But McCall always looked that way, just as Andrew Stimson, head of the ultra-secret Gap, always appeared calm.
"New York is cooperating brilliantly," Barton McCall reported. "Under the circumstances we couldn't ask for more. Fortunately the woman called us first."
The President stopped halfway into his chair. "What woman?"
"Madame Rosa," answered McCall. "Owner of the house where Easton was killed."
"She knew his identity?"
"Terrific." The President's eyes flared toward Andrew Stimson. "Helluva ship you got running there, Andy."
Stimson seemed unfazed by the comment. "Madame Rosa's has enjoyed an exclusive clientele for fifteen years. Easton never told her a damn thing. She knew he was intelligence and therefore knew approximately whom to call this afternoon. She's got a feel for such things."
"And apparently Easton had a feel for something I don't exactly remember seeing in his file."
Stimson shrugged. "An agent's private life is his own business."
"Not when it gets him killed."
Stimson nodded with grim acceptance. Years before, when the CIA had come under increasing scrutiny and the methods of the NSA under fire, a gap resulted between what the intelligence community needed to bring off and what it could effectively get away with. So a new organization was created to take up the slack, appropriately labeled the Gap. Stimson was its first and so far its only director.
"Just remember, sir," he said to the President, "that the pressure men like Easton are under sometimes forces them into undesirable pastimes."
"The mess at Madame Rosa's can hardly be referred to as a pastime, Andy."
"I think we'll be surprised when we find out the identities of the customers in the other rooms at the time."
The President cleared his throat. "The real question, gentlemen, is whether Easton's murder was random, perhaps the result of someone else's kinky fantasy, or whether it was carefully orchestrated."
"Evidence seems to indicate the latter," reported CIA chief McCall. "The men behind it were pros all the way. No one saw them go in and we're not even sure anyone saw them go out. We got a report that two black men were seen leaving the area immediately after the murders, but even that's sketchy. The weapons used were Mac-10s, a pair of thirtyround clips totally emptied."
"Easton took fourteen slugs alone, the kids about the same."
The President raised his eyebrows. "We going to have any problems from the relatives of those kids?"
McCall shook his head. "Madame Rosa was their legal guardian. She'll take care of everything."
The President didn't bother pursuing the matter further. "Someone must have wanted Easton dead awfully bad. He was due in soon, wasn't he?"
"Tonight," answered Stimson. "That's when the briefing was scheduled, by him I might add."
"So he had completed his current assignment."
"At least enough to bring it to the next level."
"Okay, Andy, refresh my memory of what he was on to."
"Internal subversion," Stimson replied. "Terrorist groups, revolutionaries, that sort of thing."
"Something big. Easton felt he was on to a group whose size and resources went way beyond anything we've faced before. His reports were vague, but he was closing in on the top. He believed there was a time factor involved."
"Which this afternoon's incident has apparently confirmed," the President noted. "Now all we have to do is find out who was counting the minutes. Terrorists?"
"That's the assumption," Stimson acknowledged. "But the Gap's dealt with plenty of terrorist groups here at home without losing agents to such brutal assassinations. Like I said before, whatever Easton uncovered was a helluva lot bigger than a run-of-the-mill bombing or hostage situation."
"And since we have no idea what," said the President, "I hope you gentlemen have devised a contingency plan to find the missing pieces."
"He might have left some bit of evidence for us somewhere," McCall suggested.
"We're checking that possibility now," Stimson responded. "Safe deposit and mail drops, hotel rooms, safe houses—all that sort of thing. Easton's car, too once we find it."
"Find it?" said the President.
"I'm afraid it was conveniently stolen around the same time Easton was killed," Stimson reported.
"Then the logical question is what does that leave us with? What in hell do we do?"
"Replacing Easton is our first step," came McCall's swift reply. "Send someone out to pick up where he left off."
"All well and good if we knew where that was," Stimson countered. "We haven't got a clue, and if we did, sending a man out now would be tantamount to having him walk a greased tightrope."
"I believe, sir," McCall said, turning toward the President, "that my people are more than capable of picking up the pieces as soon as you authorize this as a Company operation."
"It started with the Gap and that's where it will end," Stimson said staunchly.
"Stow the bullshit, gentlemen," the President said. "I asked you here for answers, not boundary squabbles. Andy, you sound pretty adamant about keeping this within Gap jurisdiction. I assume you've thought out our next step."
Stimson nodded, stealing a quick glance at his counterpart in the CIA. "What Barton said before about a replacement for Easton has to be the first priority. But there is no one present in our active files who fills the necessary criteria and who we can afford to label expendable."
"That puts us back at square one," muttered the President, his voice laced with frustration.
"Not exactly." Stimson paused. "I suggest recalling someone from the inactive list."
"Recalling who?" McCall asked suspiciously.
Stimson didn't hesitate. "Blaine McCracken."
"Now, hold on just a min—"
"I've thought this thing out." Stimson's voice prevailed over McCall's. "McCracken's not only the perfect man for the job, he's also expendable."
"With good reason," McCall snapped.
"McCracken," said the President. "Don't think I've ever heard of him."
"Consider yourself fortunate," McCall went on. "McCracken's a rogue, a rebel, a deviant son of a bitch who—"
"Has always had a knack for successfully completing missions," Stimson broke in.
"Always on his own terms and always with complications."
"I would suggest that in this case the terms and complications are meaningless," Stimson followed with barely a pause. "Results are all that matter."
"At what cost?" McCall challenged. "McCrackenballs doesn't obey orders and has proved an embarrassment to this government every time we've sent him into the field."
The President leaned forward. "McCracken what?"
McCall cleared his throat.
"It's a long story," Stimson replied.
"We've got loads of time. Easton's funeral isn't for two days," the President said bitingly.
"I'll sum up the man we're dealing with here as succinctly as I can," Stimson continued as if he had memorized the words. "The early stages of McCracken's career were routine enough. Two decorated tours in 'Nam with the Special Forces. Lots of medals. After the war the Company put him to use in Africa and later South America. Deep cover. McCracken's specialty was infiltration."
"Along with teaching schoolchildren how to make Molotov cocktails," McCall added.
"His orders were to promote resistance against the rebels."
"And there was hell to pay for his little escapades with the kiddies once the papers got hold of them. If we hadn't covered our tracks in time, the whole episode would have made the Nicaraguan training manual business look like back-page news."
"He was following orders," Stimson reiterated.
"No, Andy, he was interpreting them in his own unique manner." McCall shook his head as if in pain, turning toward the President. "We sent him to London to train with the SAS."
"Buried him there, you mean," Stimson snapped.
"But he dug himself up quite nicely, didn't he?" McCall shot back. "There was an unfortunate episode where an Arab group nabbed a plane and threatened to shoot a passenger every minute the authorities exceeded their demands deadline. The British were convinced they were bluffing. McCracken was certain they weren't. In the end, by the time the SAS stormed the plane, four passengers were dead."
"Oh, Christ "
"McCracken screamed at British officials on national television, shouted that they had no balls."
"His word?" the President asked.
"His exact word," nodded McCall. "Then to reinforce his point, he went to Parliament Square and blew the balls right off Churchill's statue with a machine gun, at least the general anatomical area under the statue's greatcoat."
The President looked dumbfounded.
Stimson leaned forward. "Because innocent people died at Heathrow. McCracken can't stand civilian casualties."
"And he's convinced he's the only man who can avoid them," McCall countered. He swung back to the President. "McCracken's a goddamn lone ranger who won't even let Tonto play. Dismissal at his level was, of course, out of the question. So we started moving him around from one petty post to another to avoid further embarrassments. He finally settled as a cipher operator in Paris."
"And he's stuck it out, hasn't he?" Stimson challenged. "Does everything he's told to from confirming scrambled communications to sorting paper clips even though it's probably busting him up inside."
"An agent could do a lot worse."
"Not an agent like McCracken. It's a waste."
"More a necessity, Andy. He's brought all this on himself."
Excerpted from The Omega Command by Jon Land. Copyright © 1986 Jon Land. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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